Chester MP Chris Matheson candidly revealed he has ‘not always had full confidence’ in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn but will support the shadow cabinet once again following his resignation during the failed coup attempt.
This is the first time Mr Matheson has expressed his views in black and white terms.
The MP, who has a tiny 93-vote majority, previously quit as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the shadow justice team but has now gained a new role as PPS to shadow housing minister John Healey.
In June he was reported to have called on Corbyn to resign during a heated meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party, apparently saying: “I’ve done something you’ve never done, and that’s beaten the Tories.”
Later he nominated Owen Smith when he backed him in the leadership contest which saw Corbyn re-elected as leader with an even bigger mandate.
Mr Matheson has always declined to comment publicly on his stance. But in a straight-talking email to Labour members, Mr Matheson said it was now time to ‘move forward together’.
He wrote: “ It is a matter of public record that I have not always had full confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead our party to general election victory. This is not a personal issue: I respect him as campaigner and I agree with his principled approach to instilling Labour values in solutions that tackle the issues we face domestically. That’s why we must all move forward together.
“The leadership elections are over, Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership election. I declined offers to join the front bench team because I must be able to devote 100% of my time to Chester. However, I agreed to serve as PPS for John Healey, shadow minister for housing.
“It is clear that with thousands of families on the waiting list for housing in our borough alone, and with the Tories wanting to slash social housing stock even further by extending the so-called right to buy to housing association properties, there is a need for new thinking on this issue and I am keen to be part of a team that can present a Labour solution to a Tory problem.”
Mr Matheson said his first 526 days in the role had been ‘a whirlwind’ involving resolving 2,000 constituency cases, holding public meetings including over the future of the amphitheatre and intervening in parliament on issues such as traffic problems on the M56 as well as leading debates against bank closures on local high streets and against benefits cuts for the disabled.
“ I love this job and every day I am grateful to have it,” said Mr Matheson, who is mindful of his vulnerable position given he is in the most marginal Labour seat in the country.
He continued: “In his conference speech, Jeremy Corbyn put us on alert for a snap general election. We must be ready for this. But currently we are well behind in the polls, we have a press that’s not championing our ideas and we face electoral challenges from UKIP and even the Liberal Democrat Party.
“In Chester, we are on a knife edge. Just 93 votes, the smallest Labour majority in the country. To form the next Labour government, we must win seats like Chester.”
He added: “We have an NHS in crisis, a fragmented and inefficient rail system whose fat cat owners are creaming off massive profits at our expense, a post-Brexit vote economy that is tanking, zero-hour contracts, insecurity at work and at home, a housing sector in chaos, increasing poverty, food banks, and an education system that is being broken up to satisfy the age-old ideological ambition of an out of touch elite that doesn’t understand what it means to need real opportunity.
“Every day my office works to address the local impact of these issues, but we must be in government to solve them and to do that, as Labour members, we must work together. I’m up for this challenge and I hope you are too.”