Newspaper article International New York Times

Labour Chief in Britain Chooses His Policy Team ; Economic Portfolio Goes to Ideological Ally as Women Fill Most Posts

Newspaper article International New York Times

Labour Chief in Britain Chooses His Policy Team ; Economic Portfolio Goes to Ideological Ally as Women Fill Most Posts

Article excerpt

Jeremy Corbyn gave the economic portfolio to John McDonnell, an ideological soul mate, but also allocated senior positions to more centrist figures.

After three decades on the far-left fringes of British politics, the new leader of the Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, confronted several unfamiliar problems on Monday, including whether to give top jobs to internal opponents and whether to kiss the hand of Queen Elizabeth II.

Announcing his policy team two days after winning the party leadership, Mr. Corbyn, 66, handed Labour's sensitive economic portfolio to John McDonnell, a friend, ally and ideological soul mate, but he also allocated senior positions to more centrist figures.

Also on Monday, the office of Prime Minister David Cameron said Mr. Corbyn had accepted an invitation to join the Privy Council, an ancient body that advises the monarch and whose origins date to the court of the Norman kings. The functions of the Privy Council are now limited and largely low key, but the opposition leader is normally a member. Mr. Corbyn, however, has been more outspoken than most of his predecessors about royalty, and once called for the royal family to move from Buckingham Palace to a more modest dwelling. Several privy councilors have described kissing the queen's hand -- or brushing it with their lips -- during their induction ceremony, which also involves taking an oath of allegiance.

Mr. Corbyn's emphatic election victory, with almost 60 percent support among those entitled to vote, produced one of the biggest recent political upsets in Britain and underlines the volatility of politics in Europe, where voters appear increasingly drawn to the socialist left or the nationalist right. Among the groups that have welcomed his election is the Spanish leftist party Podemos, which has gained support by opposing austerity measures.

Mr. Corbyn opposes cuts in welfare spending, wants to inject billions of pounds into the economy, has criticized NATO and opposes British involvement in military strikes in Syria.

Despite his popularity among Labour campaigners, Mr. Corbyn has less support among his own lawmakers in Parliament, making the appointment of his political team, known as the shadow cabinet, a delicate process. …

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