POLITICS
18/07/2018 19:54 BST

Labour MPs Face Fresh Deselection Threat As Momentum Pushes For Party Conference Rule Change

Corbyn supporters to force the issue at Liverpool party conference.

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

A fresh move to make it easier to deselect Labour MPs is to be launched at the party’s conference under plans drafted by grassroots group Momentum.

HuffPost UK has learned that the pro-Jeremy Corbyn group is set to force the explosive issue onto the agenda at the gathering in Liverpool, insisting it should form the next step in Labour’s ‘democracy review’.

Momentum-backed constituency parties believe the time is ripe for change and want a full debate on whether sitting MPs should command a new, two-thirds majority of their local party to continue representing their seat.

The move follows fresh calls for Brexiteer MP Kate Hoey to be ousted by her local party after she saved Theresa May from a Commons defeat on an EU customs bill on Tuesday.

The party approved a package of reforms on Tuesday, including changes to give rank and file members more of a say over leadership nominations, local council leaders and key seats on the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

Crucially, the reforms include an overhaul of the current system of party rule-making, to allow local parties to fast-track radical changes rather than waiting a year. 

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Brexiteer Labour MP Kate Hoey was among four rebels who voted with Theresa May

The NEC also decided that the Democracy Review report could be amended between now and party conference if there was a groundswell of support over the summer for further proposals.

Momentum plans to exploit the liberalised system to push for an end to “jobs for life” for MPs, with new powers for party members to choose their candidate for general elections.

HuffPost revealed earlier this year that several local parties have been circulating an online ‘How To Deselect Your MP’ guide, which was drafted by a Bristol Momentum activist among others.

The Democracy Review, which is set to be voted on at the conference in September, does not include any proposals about selection of Parliamentary candidates. 

But Corybn supporters think the subject is overdue, and claim the record membership of more than half a million members need more power to choose their local MP.  

HuffPost UK
A page from the 'WikiHow Guide' to Labour MP deselection

“While many of the reforms are welcome, they are only the beginning. If we’re to build a social movement party we need a selection process where MPs work closely with local members, where community campaigning is the norm and nobody has a job for life,” a senior Momentum source told HuffPost.

“The current system is skewed in the extreme, both disempowering members and creating a negative, unwelcoming atmosphere in local parties where the only way to hold an MP to account is to campaign against them.

“The review has ignored our outdated selections process, and there must be space for a meaningful debate at conference.

“Local parties across the country have submitted ideas about how we can open up the selection process, and these suggestions can’t be swept aside just because the democracy review has wrapped up.”

In a little-noticed reform, the Democracy Review recommends scrapping the “three year rule” that prevents specific rule changes from being debated annually.

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Momentum supporters hold a 'Keep Corbyn' protest during the failed 2016 leadership 'coup'

At present, local constituency Labour parties (CLPs) that table constitutional changes have to wait 12 months before they can be discussed by the following year’s conference.

Under the reforms, CLPs will be able to table and debate rule changes in the same year.

Momentum has not yet backed mandatory Parliamentary reselection, an idea that many centrist MPs think will be used to oust them from Westminster.

Yet changing the current ‘trigger ballot’ threshold, where an MP only needs the backing of 50% of their local branches to automatically be reselected, would also have a big impact.

Young Labour’s national committee has already proposed a rule change for mandatory reselection, with its NEC rep 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 has said.

“There is a small core of MPs who, far from committed to the politics consistently reaffirmed by the party’s membership, appear actively hostile.”

However, one MP told HuffPost earlier this year: “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.”

The Democracy Review recommendations include lowering the threshold for leadership nominations from 10% of MPs to 5%, with party members and trade unionists given more of a say.