POLITICS
09/06/2018 22:00 BST

‘How To Deselect Your Labour MP’ Online Guide Triggers Row Amid Fresh Moves By Corbyn Supporters To Change Party Rules

MPs and moderates object, but activists say its spreads democracy

WikiHow

Labour moderates have hit out at an online guide on ‘How To Deselect Your MP’ amid fresh moves by activists to force the issue onto the party’s conference agenda.

The ‘WikiHow’ advice, complete with graphic novel-style cartoons, lists four different ways to oust Labour MPs.

Drafted by Left activists, including a member of Bristol Momentum, it sets out how local constituency parties, the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), boundary changes and even criminal offences can all be used to unseat sitting MPs.

The guide has been hailed by leftwingers as a humorous way to spread democracy and information within the party and to attract new members.

But it has been condemned by centrist MPs and campaigners as a ‘Lady Bird Guide’ that “highlights the petulant animosity a tiny cadre of members have towards Labour’s elected representatives”.

WikiHow
The online guide

The row came as the party’s youth wing this week backed mandatory reselection, a policy that would force forcing every one of its 257 MPs to automatically face a local ballot of members before they can stand at a general election.

Young Labour’s executive committee voted to submit a rule change to the party conference next year in a bid to end what it calls “jobs for life” for MPs in safe seats.

And the party’s forthcoming ‘Democracy Review’ is expected this September to recommend new party rules to make it easier to stage “trigger ballots” that force MPs to compete against challengers locally.

The ‘WikiHow To Deselect Your Labour MP’ goes through step-by-step stages including joining a local party or trade union ‘affiliate’.

WikiHow

“One way of doing this is talking about political differences that you and other members may have with your local MP, for example, if there is a conflict between the left and right wings of the party, or by discussing other ways you are dissatisfied with the work they are doing,” it states.

“Make sure you understand the reasons for your political differences, for example by reading up on the history of the Labour Party, especially the differences between New Labour and traditional socialism, and by keeping up with current events.”

WikiHow

The guide depicts one activist struggling with screwed up pieces of paper, advising the motions of no confidence “have big psychological effect on your local branch and are good for growing your support base, ready to go forward to the next step”.

“If you have a lot of confidence, you can also write a motion saying that your CLP intends to try to deselect your MP.”

The WikiHow advice further explains the current party rules which mean that a reselection is only triggered if more than 50% of local branches back the idea.

“Find a candidate who you feel represents the views of your local party better, and help them to gain enough support to replace the current MP,” it says.

WikiHow

The advice adds that the next series of planned changes to boundaries of Parliamentary seats is another chance to act.

“Usually, new candidates have not been allowed to stand in the circumstance of a boundary change. However, this is not an official rule, so if the labour members in the constituency hate all potential local MPs, it could be a chance to select a totally new candidate.”

The Wiki advice states the NEC change the party’s rules on selection if it gets enough backing. And in one final slideshow it warns that MPs who commit crime can be ousted.

WikiHow

“MPs are humans and can commit crimes. For example, many MPs may have committed expenses fraud, which if found out can lead to time in prison.”

Listed among the six “authors” of the advice guide is Kieran Glasssmith, who was on the Momentum slate for the Bristol Young Labour elections.

He is a member in Bristol West, the seat where local MP Thangham Debbonaire was heckled by activists for having attended an anti-semitism rally in Parliament Square in April.

WikiHow
The list of authors

Glasssmith told HuffPost that he helped a friend with research on the topic for the WikiHow page.

“I support mandatory reselection for MPs, not individual deselections. It’s standard for every other party apart from the Tories and it’s already how we choose Labour councillors,” he said.

“As a democratic party, Labour members should be able to choose the best person to represent the going into each election.”

But one Labour MP, who preferred not to be named, said the idea was a distraction.

“Maybe they should be writing guides on how to beat the Tories rather than Labour MPs.

“The mood inside the Labour Party has calmed down since the general election and the Tories are on the ropes. The last thing we need is a divisive rule change to make deselections easier.

“The leadership must know that deselections won’t be without consequences – one of which would be another civil war that would cost Jeremy the next election. This needs to be nipped in the bud, fast.”

Under current rules, an MP needs more than 50% of their local branches to avoid a reselection contest. But many local parties are backing motions calling for a higher bar, with two thirds of branches needed to avoid any challenge.

Another MP said: “I don’t need a two-thirds majority to become an MP, so why should I need one to be selected by my local party? These people want to turn their MP into their delegate not their representative. That’s what this is about.”

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Jeremy Corbyn supporters

Matt Pound, National Organiser of the Labour First campaign, said: “Fresh attempts by the Left to focus on removing Labour MPs elected by the public are more proof that they have their priorities wrong, especially when Theresa May’s government is imploding over Brexit.

“And this Ladybird Guide To Deselecting Your MP simply highlights the petulant animosity a tiny cadre of members have towards Labour’s elected representatives. It’s not a coincidence that this online manual has been written in terms an idiot would understand.”

However, a Momentum source laughed off the online guide: “We only deal in memes, WikiHow is very 2010.”

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Momentum founder Jon Lansman

But a Momentum spokesman did say there was a serious point about Young Labour’s move and the grassroots organisation has been proposing a review of selection processes in its own submissions to the Democracy Review.

“We welcome Young Labour’s contribution to the debate. It’s really important we reform selections to make sure our expanded membership is properly empowered.

“After consulting our members we’re putting forward a proposal to open up selections, and we welcome contributions from across the party so we can have a broad debate on the issue at conference.”

NEC Youth rep and junior doctor Lara McNeill told LabourList website this week that changes was overdue and that younger challengers to MPs needed to be given a more level playing field.

Lara McNeill

“For too long, we have heard from young workers and young voters that Labour MPs in ‘safe’ seats have a ‘job for life’,” she said.

“In some Labour safe seats, some MPs have been alleged over the past few years to have had as little as a 0.3 per cent contact rate with the public. It loses us votes in elections and erodes long-term trust in our party.

“There is a small core of MPs who, far from committed to the politics consistently reaffirmed by the party’s membership, appear actively hostile. Many of these MPs stand in stark opposition to the membership of their local party and seem happy to hide away from them in Westminster. Young Labour has consistently stood against this divisive culture.”

She was backed by MP Chris Williamson and others who argue that it is time to make MPs more accountable locally.

However, others within Young Labour, including its chair Miriam Mirwitch, felt that the reselection call was not a priority. A members consultation suggested a motion on mental health services instead.

Some MPs are resigned to the prospect of reselection rules changing, although it is still a very sensitive topic within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).