Labour Party members have to right to deselect MPs if they do not like them, a leading union general secretary has said.
Matt Wrack, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was speaking at a rally organised by the pro-Jeremy Corbyn Momentum group in Liverpool on Monday evening.
“The debate we need to have is about accountability, we expect political leaders to be accountable to the people who put them there,” he said.
“There is not a single Labour MP, a single councillor, who elected on the strength of their name. Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t elected because his name was Jeremy Corbyn. Hilary Benn wasn’t elected because his name is Hilary Benn.
“They were elected because Labour members chose to select them as the Labour candidate. Labour party members have the right to discuss that question of accountability and who is the best candidate going forward.”
Wrack, who has spoken at several of the large meetings organised by Corbyn’s leadership campaign, said the size of the crowds should not be ignored.
He said: “We’ve been told by our critics that you won’t win a general election with rallies. Well I don’t think any of us have ever claimed we would win a general election with rallies. But I would say this, if you can’t even hold rallies then you are also unlikely to win a general election.”
Several Labour MPs who campaigned for Corbyn to be ousted as Labour leader worry pro-Corbyn members in their local parties may try to replace them with a candidate seen as more loyal to the leader.
The Momentum meeting also heard from Greg Hadfield, the secretary-elect of the Brighton & Hove Labour Party, that members in the city had the right to replace Hove MP Peter Kyle if they wished.
“There is a lot of discussion about MPs and deselection, there is no such thing as deselection, but here is an absolute right for members to choose the best candidate for the next election,” he said. “Our party wants to be represented by people who represent a changing party.”
He added: “Power doesn’t lie in Westminster, in Whitehall in the closed rooms, locked rooms, the secret deals and the plots or even in Labour Party HQ or NEC meetings - the power of the labour party lies with its members.”
Speaking at a separate fringe event at the official Labour Party conference, Labour MP Jess Phillips called on Corbyn to put a stop to talk of deselecting MPs.
“I think Jeremy could stop that. And I think that he should. If he cares at all about unity and it isn’t just words and he actually want to be straight talking and honest. He should come out and say, like the Conservatives did, no one left behind,” the Birmingham MP said.
Corbyn said at the start of the conference that he thought the “vast majority” of Labour MPs would hold on to their seats before the next election - but did not condemn any move to reselect candidates.