POLITICS

Labour MP Spared The Axe For Rebelling On Article 50 Three-Line Whip

Party whipping system in disarray.

27/01/2017 13:37 GMT | Updated 27/01/2017 18:45 GMT
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A frontbench Labour MP revealed she was let off the hook by party whips after telling them she was going to defy Jeremy Corbyn’s orders on the Article 50 Bill.

Shadow Home Office minister Rupa Huq privately told her Ealing Central and Acton constituency members at a meeting on Thursday that Labour’s chief whip had not asked her to quit over the vote, sources told The Huffington Post UK.

Labour has imposed a three-line whip in support of the legislation to start Brexit, meaning MPs are under strict instructions to vote for it, but numerous ministers are planning to ignore the instruction.

Traditionally, if Shadow Government members tell the whip they want to defy orders, they are immediately told they would have to resign from the frontbench.

But when asked about her comments Huq told HuffPost UK: “I have verbally informed the chief whip of my voting intention - that’s all. I think all other decisions and consequences are yet to come.”

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Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn sparked a party row on Thursday when he ordered MPs to back The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which would trigger the formal process of the UK leaving the EU.

The Labour leader said he understood the “pressures” MPs were under, as many represent Remain-voting constituencies, but asked them to “unite around the important issues”.

Shadow minister Tulip Siddiq resigned on Thursday, while two party whips, Jeff Smith and Thangam Debbonaire, said they would defy the order, despite telling others to obey it.

Labour’s whipping system faced further confusion after Huq told a Labour party meeting she would be voting against the Bill, yet had not been asked to resign. 

She told the Ealing Labour meeting she would act in the interests of her constituents, 70 percent of whom voted to remain in the EU.

This follows comments from Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott who told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Friday that the leadership were “sympathetic” to MPs who represented Remain-voting areas.

But a spokesman for Corbyn suggested to HuffPostUK that MPs who rebelled on the vote may be asked to resign, even if the order was delayed. 

“I would advise people not to assume anything about consequences. But the usual expectations for the three-line whip apply,” he said.