Corbyn’s decision to back election causes serious concerns among his MPs

19 Apr

Jeremy Corbyn has backed Theresa May’s decision to call an early election, triggering serious concerns among a number of his party’s MPs about losing their seats.

The Labour leader was quick to react to May’s surprise announcement of an election, making clear on Tuesday he was ready to become prime minister if Labour wins on 8 June.

“I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first,” he said.

His former press aide, Matt Zarb-Cousin, said Labour had been planning for an early general election since May became prime minister.

Dozens of Labour MPs are on course to lose their seats if the election result reflects the current polling for Labour, prompting some to challenge Corbyn’s decision to support May’s push for a contest in seven weeks’ time.

John Woodcock, a persistent critic of Corbyn, said he would seek to stand but did not endorse his party leader.

Woodcock, the Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness, said he would be seeking re-election as his party’s candidate but he “will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”.

Corbyn has boosted Labour’s policy proposals in the last few weeks, with announcements of free school meals for primary school pupils, a £10-an-hour minimum wage and higher carers’ allowance all options to form the backbone of a new manifesto.

Labour MPs, many of whom last year declared no confidence in Corbyn, said they were worried about the lack of a manifesto and polls showing their leader’s personal unpopularity with the electorate.

They were also braced for a battle over whether they would all be allowed to re-stand as candidates, following reports that Corbyn was initially opposed to the idea of automatic reselection of MPs.

But officers of the party unanimously made a recommendation that it would be impractical to make MPs undergo trigger ballots – a process where local party branches have to approve candidates.

They came to the view during talks about how candidates should be selected in 650 seats across the country but the final decision will be taken by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) at an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

After a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Tuesday, a senior party source said the election would be the “fight of our lives” but that the mood at the meeting was very positive and the party felt ready for the contest.

The battles would be over “the economy, schools and hospitals, living standards and jobs”, he said, without mentioning Brexit. He also confirmed there had been talks exploring ways to give party members a say before Labour MPs were reselected but that the timing of the election had made this impossible.

“It has been made clear that all sitting MPs will be automatically reselected … There was a discussion about how to give members a say but the timing of the election makes that not possible,” he said.

May is widely expected to gain the two-thirds majority in the House of Commons necessary to hold a contest on 8 June.

A number of Labour MPs have told the Guardian of their concerns that the Labour leader has been too hasty in backing a contest on May’s terms at a time of immense national instability over Brexit.

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, said he thought it was “extremely irresponsible” of the prime minister to hold an election when the situation in Northern Ireland is volatile and the UK is partway through a time-limited series of international negotiations over Brexit.

He said he did not know how he would vote on May’s motion calling for an early election but it was presumptuous for her to say it would be held on 8 June.

Another former shadow cabinet minister said he was thinking about voting against the motion as there was “no shame in calling it out as the Conservatives acting in their own self-interest”.

Chris Matheson, Labour MP for Chester, the most marginal seat in the north-west of England, said he was “minded to vote against” the prospect of an election.

When asked whether he would would vote in favour of the motion, Labour MP Mike Gapes tweeted:

Mike Gapes
(@MikeGapes)

Do Turkeys vote for Christmas ? https://t.co/kFTcICOZXU


April 18, 2017

Liz McInnes, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton, said she
would vote against the idea of another election. “The people have had enough of elections,” she said. “I am not going to vote for another one. Theresa May has misled the public again. Typical Tories.”

Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, said she thought her party should abstain and there was a head of steam among some Labour MPs to force the prime minister to hold a vote of no confidence.

“I will certainly abstain,” she said. “I would vote for no confidence in the prime minister but I’m not going to vote for this giving her short term electoral advantage and hand her that advantage on a plate.”

In contrast, the Labour leadership is adamant that the party should seize the chance of getting rid of May’s Conservative government bent on a hard Brexit.

Labour’s NEC meeting on Wednesday will look at candidate selection, which may require 2015 candidates in unwinnable seats to stand again.

“Obviously many of them may not want to, which is understandable,” a source said. “But it may have to be the case that the NEC imposes candidates on some local parties. That’s been a conversation we’ve avoided having because a lot of people on the committee won’t like that.

“It will be a tough battle.”

A snap meeting will be called to discuss the party’s manifesto, though the 2015 manifesto is still technically party policy and much of it could be used again, the source said.

Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for the marginal seat of Ilford North, said it was “reckless and irresponsible” of the prime minister to hold a general election after triggering article 50.

Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “I’m still a bit in shock. I think that Theresa May has lied to the country again and again – and she is being opportunistic. I think it is rubbish what she is saying about a country divided – she obviously doesn’t live round where I live. People just want to get on with their lives.

“She’s playing a game and it’s a shame. I don’t think there was any appetite for a general election from the public and this is Westminster politics once again.”

But in private, a number of senior Labour MPs said they were very worried. One MP said she was in complete shock and felt sick thinking of colleagues at risk of losing their seats in the Midlands.


May’s election U-turn: the times she ruled out a snap vote – video

A former shadow cabinet minister said he and others in the party were in a “mad panic”, with some colleagues thinking about whether it was possible to replace Corbyn with a caretaker leader in time for the election.

“We’ve all thought ‘what if there’s a general election?’, but had not really thought through what would actually happen. It could be really, really disastrous,” he said.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has already announced his decision to not recontest the seat, along with Alan Johnson in Hull West.

Among those facing a battle to keep their seats, David Winnick, the long-serving Labour MP in Walsall North, with a majority of less than 2,000, said he would stand again with the backing of his party members.

But he added: “I can’t say I’m pleased about another election. May is gambling on the poll findings and under huge pressure from her own backbenchers.”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply