Although Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman described tonight’s meeting of the PLP as barely registering on the Richter scale in terms of hostility, it could hardly be described as an hour of sweetness and light. While the meeting appeared to get off to a good start with loud cheers that could be heard from the corridor, it later transpired that the applause was for Rosie Winterton — the chief whip Corbyn sacked — rather than the Labour leader himself.
When Corbyn praised Winterton for her work in the role over the past six years, he was heckled by MPs who questioned why he had fired Winterton if he really thought so much of her. Corbyn didn’t have much more luck taking questions from his MPs. Concern from Barry Sheerman over the ICM poll which gave the Tories a 17-point lead was brushed away — with Corbyn’s spokesman later squarely placing the blame on shadow cabinet resignations and the vote of no confidence rather than anything of the leader’s doing.
Another sticking point among MPs related to Corbyn’s comments on Russia. Referring to the dozens of civilians killed in Aleppo as Russian and Syrian regime bombers pounded the city, Corbyn would only say that it ‘appeared’ Russia was guilty of a war crime. His spokesman later insisted that Corbyn had condemned the Russian government for its involvement in the air strike — but added that Corbyn had used cautious language as ‘evidence can be murky’.
While it may not have been the most stormy meeting in the past year, the bubbling tensions serve as a reminder that there is no quick solution when it comes to healing the divide between the leadership and the PLP.