POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Could Back Plans To Make It Easier To Deselect MPs, Allies Reveal

'There's no doubt there will be changes,' says key ally.

05/07/2017 21:33 | Updated 06 July 2017

Jeremy Corbyn could back radical plans to make it easier for party members to deselect sitting Labour MPs, senior sources have revealed.

In what appears to be a move to entrench his authority after his successful election campaign, the Labour leader is open to changing the party’s rules to “democratise” how it chooses who represents it at Westminster.

The tougher stance came as grassroots group Momentum took control of yet another local Labour party, warning sitting MP Luciana Berger that she “needs to get on board quite quickly” after her previous criticism of the leader.

HuffPost UK has learned that Corbyn has also appointed loyal leftwingers to key posts in his leadership team, covering everything from union liaison to campaigning.

Current rules on reselection of MPs have been in place for decades and allow sitting MPs to stay in place unless they lose a ‘trigger ballot’ of members.

New party chair Ian Lavery told HuffPost UK last week that he wanted “different ways and means” of selecting MPs, while Corbyn ally Chris Williamson has also backed moves to force every MP to face a reselection contest.

Corbyn has previously ruled out changes to the rules, but Momentum are already pushing for reforms, including a requirement that MPs will need 75% backing of members in order to be reselected.

Asked about Williamson’s suggestion that mandatory reselection would “focus the minds” of those who want to rebel against Corbyn, a senior party source said “there’s no doubt there will be changes” to Labour’s internal democracy.

“Jeremy’s leadership from the start had as one of its goals the democratisation of the Labour party and the democratisation of our wider political system,” the source said.

“There’s no doubt there will be changes in the way the Labour party operates to take account of the fact that we’ve now got upwards of 550,000 members. When Jeremy became leader there was less than 200,000 I think.

“We want to see a much more engaged, proactive and democratic organisation going into the future.

“When it comes to particular reforms, Jeremy hasn’t taken a position on them, but he wants to see a wider democratisation of the party.”

PA Archive/PA Images
Jeremy Corbyn at a Momentum rally in Parliament Square.

The comments represent a marked change from 2015, when Corbyn was first elected leader.

He said at the time: “I wish to make it absolutely crystal clear that I do not support any changes to Labour’s rules to make it easier to deselect sitting Labour MPs.”

But after the attempted “coup” by Labour MPs in 2016, and the vote of no confidence in him, allies believe that now is the time to plan changes to ensure the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) reflects the grass roots.

“When it comes to how the systems of selection and reselection of MPs, there already is a system in place of trigger ballots in normal circumstances and the Labour party nationally is discussing when selections will take place at the moment.

“Jeremy has not taken a position on any reforms of the system for the future and that would be dealt with by the party at the conference. If you’re talking about reforms, that’s a matter for the party membership and for the conference, depending on what’s brought forward.”

Party chair Ian Lavery.

In his interview with HuffPost UK, Lavery said: “Everything is going to be reviewed. That’s the point I am making… perhaps we need to look at different ways and means. Listen, if you get deselected in a constituency there must be a reason for it.

“Some might argue, and I would be one of them, that we might be too broad a church. Being an MP, I haven’t got the divine right to be an MP for Wansbeck.”

Speaking to ITV News earlier this week, Williamson – now the shadow fire minister - said: “MPs need to reflect the political programme that is overwhelmingly supported by Labour members and Labour supporters and if people aren’t prepared to do that then it will be up to members in their local constituencies to find someone else who will.”

HuffPost reported last week that since the general election, Momentum has been winning control of several constituency Labour parties (CLPs), in the process securing crucial delegates needed for votes at the party’s annual conference.

Leftwingers are also hoping to take control of the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC), in preparation for a big push on reselection rules at the 2018 conference.

The main obstacle remains the trade unions, as many of them - such as the GMB - have only recently opposed mandatory reselection of MPs.

PA Archive/PA Images
Former shadow health minister Luciana Berger.

At a meeting on Tuesday night of Liverpool Wavertree CLP, the leftwing group won nine out of 10 positions on its executive committee.

One new committee member Roy Bentham told the Liverpool Echo: “Luciana needs to get on board quite quickly now.

“She will now have to sit round the table with us the next time she wants to vote for bombing in Syria or to pass a no confidence motion in the leader of the party - she will have to be answerable to us.”

In a statement, Berger praised “the hard work of local members and a revitalised national party under Jeremy Corbyn”.

After stamping his authority on the party with his shadow ministerial reshuffle, Corbyn sacked three of his junior frontbenchers for defying his whip on a Brexit vote last week.

He has now also moved to reward the loyalty of key leftwingers in his leadership team.

Former Unite campaigns officer Amy Jackson will take over trade union liaison, Laura Murray becomes ‘Stakeholder Manager’ and Unite activist Marsha-Jane Thompson has been given role on the campaigns team, sources confirmed to HuffPost UK.

The posts became vacant following a series of departures of staff before the general election.

Ben Sellars, who ran the original ‘Jeremy Corbyn for PM’ Twitter account and runs the socialist bookshop in Durham is being drafted in to help with social media.

Other Corbyn supporters have been hoping to “purge” the party’s HQ too.

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