Although Labour MPs have been encouraged not to brief what happens at meetings of the PLP to lurking journalists, Jeremy Corbyn’s team have no issue briefing out what the leader will say at the meeting before it even occurs.
Today hacks were told that Corbyn would use the meeting to clampdown on party in-fighting as members are sick of MPs ‘parading on the media to give a running commentary’. However, what he actually said is another story. The Labour leader toned down his prose considerably — presumably in the quest for party unity — even though his harsher warning was already readable online.
Despite this slip-up, the meeting was one of the cheeriest since Corbyn became leader. The meeting kicked off with rapturous applause from MPs as they welcomed newly elected members. However, it was Labour’s man of the moment Sadiq Khan who won the biggest round of applause.
The new Mayor of London attended the meeting straight from having his first meeting with Corbyn. While the Labour leader’s spokesman described this as a ‘warm and friendly’ affair, Khan did not hold back with his rousing speech to MPs.
He said that the party could still secure a win in 2020, describing the current Government as ‘reminiscent of the Major years in the 1990s’. In order to win, he said the party ‘cannot afford to miss any open goals’. In a thinly-veiled attack on ideologically-minded socialists, he said ‘there is no such thing as glorious defeat’ before adding that it was time ‘to prove through action rather than words, that Labour can be trusted to govern and that in power, we can change lives for the better’.
While his words received around two minutes of constant applause, Corbyn took a different line. He was keen to play-up Labour’s election results — pointing to their mayoral gains and the results in Wales. He did at least concede that the result in Scotland was ‘not great’.
After the meeting, his spokesman described it as a ‘very good meeting’ and went on to play-up the success of the Mayor of Bristol, when Khan was mentioned. The spokesman claimed that Marvin Rees’s success at the polls has been ‘heavily under-reported’.
Although Corbyn’s team appear keen to show that there is more than one mayor worth talking about, it was Khan’s speech that stole the show and rallied MPs. If they wish to keep Corbyn as Labour’s leading man, they have their work cut out.