Jeremy Corbyn yesterday began swinging the axe in his first shadow cabinet reshuffle as Labour leader.
His opening move was to sack his shadow culture minister, who criticised his leadership a few days ago.
Michael Dugher, who warned Corbyn not to make Labour a “religious cult”, tweeted yesterday morning: “Just been sacked by Jeremy Corbyn. I wished him a happy new year.”
A string of other top Labour figures were set to face a nailbiting meeting with Corbyn today.
The Labour leader entered the Houses of Parliament through a side entrance yesterday morning to avoid a group of journalists outside his office.
As he stepped from his official car, he sounded tense and would only say to the Standard: “No, no questions, sorry.”
After Dugher’s sacking, deputy leader Tom Watson put out a statement paying tribute to him. He said: “Michael Dugher is a rare politician — a talented, working-class MP who hasn’t lost his strong Yorkshire roots.
“Politicians with his ability and commitment can make a difference in any role. Labour’s loss in the shadow cabinet will be compensated for by Michael’s free thought on the backbenches.”
Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said: “Michael is a formidable campaigner who has provided an important and authentic voice to the shadow cabinet. Him going is a loss.”
Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, said: “We face a big challenge in winning back the trust of our traditional supporters in the North and the Midlands and Michael is one of the authentic voices who can do that.”
Backbench MPs also came out in support, with John Woodcock claiming Dugher had been “straight” about how the Momentum group, set up to support Corbyn’s leadership, was a “vehicle for Labour’s opponents”.
At the weekend, Dugher said he did not think that Corbyn would go ahead with his reshuffle because Labour was a “broad church, not a religious cult”.
He said any attempt to remove those with differing opinions would be inconsistent with Corbyn’s aim of having debate within the party.
Labour insiders suggested shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, whose support for action in Syria angered Corbyn, would keep his job.
Shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, who clashed with Corbyn over the renewal of Trident missiles, was expected to be moved.

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