John McDonnell has said there is “nothing untoward” about Labour Party members raising concerns about the performance of their MP.
The shadow chancellor said on Tuesday morning he could “see there is a need for reform” in the way local parties selected their parliamentary candidates.
Last night it emerged Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was facing formal criticism from her local party for attending a rally against anti-Semitism. Jeremy Corbyn has said it would be “wrong” for him to interfere in local party deliberations.
Momentum, the grassroots group that backs Corbyn, has proposed changing party rules to make it easier to replace a sitting MP in order to see a “new generation” elected to the Commons.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, McDonnell said he preferred the existing system but understood demands for it to be “slightly reformed”. He said it would be wrong to “mistake democracy for division” in the party.
“We now have 500,000 members. It’s a huge mass party now and, of course, those members want to get involved in discussions about policy,” he said.
“Also, they will reflect at times their view about the performances of their local MP.
“We have had a small number of incidences that we have seen, two or three, where parties have come together and they have expressed concerns about the performance of their MP.
He added: “That’s happened right the way through the history of our party, but it’s nothing untoward.”
The proposed move against Duffield triggered a widespread backlash from Labour MPs across the spectrum.
She was backed by senior colleagues including former work and pensions secretary Yvette Copper, who said she was a “brilliant MP”.
Cooper added on Twitter: “Can’t believe any party members wd want to target her rather than Tories @RosieDuffield1 so spectacularly but narrowly defeated in #Canterbury & certainly not over her challenge to antisemitism which Jeremy, NEC & Shad Cab have all committed to tackling.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner added her voice to the chorus, saying: “Friend and colleague @RosieDuffield1 is a superb MP who happens to be an excellent constituency MP too! Always so supportive in Parliament to me and other colleagues.”
The action followed no confidence votes against Labour Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, a former minister under Tony Blair, Luton South MP Gavin Shuker and Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie.