Britain’s new opposition Labour leader defends his shadow cabinet picks against criticism there aren’t enough women in the top jobs, despite there being more women than men at the top table for the first time in history.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (SEPTEMBER 14, 2015) (ITN) – The new leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party caused a stir on Monday (September 14) in the UK with his choices for the new shadow cabinet.
He named an ally whose declared aim is the overthrow capitalism as finance spokesman on Monday, pushing hard-left policies that opponents say will make the party unelectable.
After a winning Labour’s top job by a landslide on Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn named senior members of his would-be government including John McDonnell – a former trade unionist who backs renationalising banks and imposing wealth taxes – as his finance minister-in-waiting.
McDonnell lists “generally fomenting the overthrow of capitalism” among his interests in the Who’s Who directory of influential people, and wants public ownership of the banks to take control of what he calls Britain’s “casino economy”.
Corbyn won the overwhelming support of party activists by rejecting Blairite policies and the Conservative government’s plans to balance the state budget with more spending cuts.
Instead, he has proposed wealth taxes, money-printing, nuclear disarmament and a British exit from the NATO military alliance. He is ambiguous on Britain’s membership of the EU, which is due to be decided in a referendum promised by Cameron.
His new shadow cabinet has more women than men for the first time in history, with 16 women and 15 men, but he has been accused in Britain’s media of not giving any of the perceived top jobs to women.
Questioned as he left the House of Commons late on Sunday night he refused to speak to reporters following him along the street.
“These people are bothering me” was all he would say to questions about roles for women.
Along with O’Donnell, Andy Burnham, former leadership contender has been given shadow home secretary and Hilary Benn stays as shadow foreign secretary.
Women posts in the cabinet include Diane Abbott as shadow international development, Angela Eagle as shadow business secretary and Lucy Powell as shadow education secretary.
By Monday afternoon Corbyn stopped ignoring the media and he defended his choices as he arrived at the Labour Party HQ. He argued that health and education ministries are just as important as the perceived top positions of finance and foreign ministers.
He accused the media of holding out-dated views.
“Isn’t health more important? No, you are living in the eighteenth century if I may say so. That was when the great offices of state were decided. We have a shadow cabinet of the majority of women covering all areas of policy and public life and I think it is a great team we have got together. We have spent a lot of time doing it, with a lot of care and a lot of observation and it reaches out to the entire party and I think that is a bit of an achievement if I may say so.”
On Wednesday this week Corbyn faces his first head to head clash with Prime Minister David Cameron during the traditionally rowdy Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.