Labour moderates: Why we will stay away from the shadow cabinet
Chris Bryant and Caroline Flint spoke at a Progress event on how to 're-energise' progressive politics.
In his speech to the Labour conference, veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn lamented that "we’ve got some of our best people sitting on the subs bench".
Urging them to return to the field of play, he added: "It took courage for many of them to resign, it’s going to take greater courage for many of them to come back and we must make it possible for them to return with dignity and respect.”
Corbyn and his team are now said to be holding “interviews” with potential recruits to the shadow cabinet. A spokesman from the leader's office told journalists last night that a "not insignificant number" of MPs will return to the shadow cabinet next week.
Jonathan Reynolds is expected to return as Brexit minister in the shadow Treasury team. Other returnees are yet to be named, but among those tipped for a possible comeback are John Healey, Keir Starmer, Lucy Powell and Lord Falconer.
Two experienced moderate MPs who will be staying on the subs bench are Chris Bryant and Caroline Flint.
Having spent five years in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, Flint opted not to join Corbyn’s top team last year – and the MP for Don Valley made it clear that she would not be changing her mind now.
She told a Progress fringe event at the Labour conference: “I feel I am using my talents, I haven’t shirked my responsibilities in the last year. I served on the public accounts committee, working across the House, showing that in opposition we can actually change the law. And I chair the backbench committee on energy and climate change too. So I am playing my part.”
“I’m very active in my constituency party and I contribute where I can. I haven’t taken the view that if I’m not in the shadow cabinet then a backbench role is not somehow beneath me.”
Bryant resigned as shadow leader of the House of Commons in June. He told the Progress event: “I don’t want to go back into the shadow cabinet for a very simple reason which is that I want to be able to fight with freedom on the issue of our membership of the European Union.”
When that didn't quite convince one delegate, the MP for Rhondda then provided another reason for his decision: “I don’t think Jeremy would have me, frankly.”