Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of ‘abusing his position’ in a bid to scupper controversial Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s bid to succeed him as leader.
Labour insiders say Corbyn has shown ‘favouritism’ by going out of his way to raise the profile of Left-wing rising star Dawn Butler – and thwart Shadow Foreign Secretary Thornberry’s own ambitions.
The row flared in the Commons last week amid reports that Labour MP Paula Sherriff stormed out after Corbyn praised Ms Butler, the party’s women and equalities spokesperson, for her role in fighting ‘period poverty’ affecting women who struggle to afford sanitary products.
One Labour MP said there is ‘huge anger’ at ‘relatively junior’ shadow cabinet member Dawn Butler, in red to the left of Corbyn, being given a ‘prime position’ next to him
Allies of Dewsbury MP Sherriff said it was ‘outrageous’ because it was she that had led the campaign against the so-called VAT ‘tampon tax’ — not Butler. A Labour source said this was the most blatant example yet of Corbyn’s bias.
But frontbench colleagues are also furious that the Brent MP now sits next to the Labour leader at the weekly sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions – the highlight of the parliamentary week. One said: ‘There is a huge amount of anger over this.
‘Why is a relatively junior member of the Shadow Cabinet given the prime position every week next to the Leader? It’s as if he favours a handful of Shadow Cabinet mates and doesn’t rate the rest of them.’
Emily Thornberry is tipped to become the next Labour leader and according to one backer, her support is growing among MPs
But some backers of Thornberry’s hopes of becoming leader also accused 68-year-old Corbyn and his inner circle of trying to ‘trim Emily’s wings’.
‘He may not actually reckon Dawn has leadership potential but she may just be being used in putting Emily back in her place.’
Sources close to Thornberry insist there is certainly no friction between her and Ms Butler, adding: ‘Dawn is Emily’s best friend in the party.’
Islington MP Thornberry, 57, is widely tipped to be the party’s next leader, despite being forced to stand down as Shadow Attorney General three years ago after tweeting a ‘snobby’ picture during a by-election of a house with three England flags and a white van parked outside.
Labour insiders say Corbyn has shown ‘favouritism’ by raising the profile of Left-wing rising star Dawn Butler
Since returning to the Shadow Cabinet, she has been credited for playing a key role in the party’s revival. One ally said: ‘Emily’s getting growing support from Labour MPs for if and when Jeremy decides to pack it in.’
But Labour MPs have been struck by how influential Ms Butler, 48, has become on the Corbyn team since the summer.
Sources close to Corbyn said it was nonsense he was favouring Butler, while a spokesman for Thornberry dismissed as ‘fiction’ suggestions that friends of hers were behind the attacks on the Labour leader.
The spokesman branded it ‘an attempt to disrupt the tremendous unity of the Shadow Cabinet under Jeremy’.
But one MP hit back last night, saying: ‘It’s Jeremy or his inner circle who are doing the undermining by clearly favouring a small coterie of frontbenchers over the rest.’