'Let's not fight each other', Angela Rayner tells Labour MPs

Senior Labour frontbenchers tell party it must ‘think about Tory enemies’, not infighting, as debate about mandatory reselection resurfaces

Labour figures who want to give party members the chance to oust MPs disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn should concentrate on fighting their real political enemies in the Conservatives, two senior frontbenchers have said.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said there must be an end to “fighting each other”, after some in Labour returned to the debate about whether there should be mandatory reselection of MPs.

“Anyone who talks about deselecting any of my colleagues, quite frankly, they need to think about who are the real enemy here,” she told the BBC. “Who are making the problems for our communities at the moment. Who have made those disastrous policies that are hurting the people that need us the most. And it doesn’t help them if we’re fighting each other.”

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, took the same position, saying he is really clear about not supporting mandatory reselection.

That’s the very strong view of very, very many people in the PLP,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a discussion we need to be having. I think we have a government that is in crisis, that really doesn’t know how to go forward, is on the ropes on a daily basis, is clearly in-fighting itself.

“In those circumstances the Labour party should be dignified, it should be united and it should rise above – we don’t need a discussion in the party about mandatory reselection.”

The prospect has been raised several times by Chris Williamson, the shadow fire minister and an ally of Corbyn, who said last week that MPs should have no objection to seeking the endorsement of their party members.

“Those MPs who are popular with their members, which may well be the vast majority, should have no problem getting reselected. But it’s unreasonable to think we as MPs can avoid any contest,” he said.

Momentum, the grassroots movement of Corbyn supporters, has explicitly said it does not support deselection of sitting MPs. But several local Labour parties passed motions in support of a discussion at a future party conference about changing the rules on how MPs are chosen.

MPs are subject to a so-called trigger ballot, meaning party members and affiliates locally have to vote to endorse them as candidates. But Labour International, the largest constituency Labour party, passed a motion just days ago suggesting instead that sitting MPs should have the right to be on the shortlist of candidates, but would be subject to an open competition to keep their jobs.

Their motion, for debate at conference in 2018, says: “If a CLP is represented in parliament by a member of the PLP, then a timetable for selecting the next Westminster parliamentary candidate shall commence no sooner than 36 months and complete no later than 48 months after the election. The sitting member of parliament shall be automatically included on the shortlist of candidates, unless they request to retire or resign from the PLP.”

There was also a furore on Thursday after a new party officer in Wavertree warned Labour MP Luciana Berger that she needed to “get on board” with the leader. Other local officials disavowed the comments, but Labour MPs such as John Woodcock claimed it was an attempt to intimidate her while on maternity leave.

Momentum was also forced to play down a list of 49 Labour MPs who should “join the Liberals”, which was posted by a local branch in South Tyneside. A spokesman for the movement said it had been taken down as it did not accord with its national values and Momentum centrally is not supporting the idea of deselections.

Corbyn has not yet made his views clear on the debate about whether to give party members a greater say in the selection of MPs. A leadership source said last week: “Jeremy’s leadership from the start had as one of its goals the democratisation of the Labour party and our wider political system.

“There’s no doubt there will be changes to the way the Labour party operates to take account of the fact that we’ve now got upwards of 550,000 members. We want to see a much more engaged, proactive and democratic organisation going into the future.

“When it comes to particular reforms, Jeremy hasn’t taken a position on them, but he wants to see a wider democratisation of the party. When it comes to the systems of selection and reselection of MPs, there already is a system in place of trigger ballots in normal circumstances and the Labour party nationally is discussing when selections will take place.

“Jeremy has not taken a position on any reforms of the system for the future and that would be dealt with by the party at the conference.”

Contributor

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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