Deselection would be very dangerous for Labour

By Chris Rogers June 7, 2016 4:31 pm

According to the GMB trade union, the message for Labour MPs is very simple. Get onboard or get out the way.

City AM reported this morning that the union yesterday backed a call for Labour MPs to give an undertaking to support party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Doubtless David Cameron was wondering why no-one would do such a thing for him, embattled as he is barely a fortnight from the EU referendum and with many amongst his own party seemingly after his head. But the decision of GMB members paves the way for Labour MPs to be deselected if they repeatedly cross swords with Jeremy Corbyn.

The vote demonstrates the level of disconnect that currently exists between the Parliamentary Labour Party, which would pursue a more moderate course, and the rank and file, many of whom remain staunchly behind Mr Corbyn.

On the one hand, you might well ask why shouldn’t activists have an expectation that their MPs toe the party line? Mr Corbyn, after all and despite the initial hiccups with his nomination, trounced his rival in the leadership contest last year. His supporters surely have every right to point to the measure of his victory as a demonstration of his mandate, and accompany this with the demands that Labour MPs fall in behind their leader.

Well, yes and no. There have been very prominent and obvious ructions within the Labour Party since Mr Corbyn’s election, most notably with various former shadow cabinet members taking themselves off to the backbenches rather than work under his leadership. Some of the criticisms of Mr Corbyn have also been unhelpful to Labour’s cause, showing the Party as being at war over its identity. And just like the Tories with Europe, the thinnest of paper has covered those cracks.

All of this has impacted on Labour’s appeal to the wider electorate. But does that mean the likes of the GMB should be calling for the deselection of MPs?

The answer is and must be a resounding no. Local Labour branches will make their own decisions over their candidates for the next General Election, but even the threat of deselection is damaging to Labour. It risks stripping the Party of some of its greatest talents, brightest minds and compelling speakers. And it sends a message not only against dissent but healthy debate and opinion that might ultimately benefit the party platform when the next election is called.

One can question whether some or all of the criticisms of Mr Corbyn’s leadership have been made in the best way or have been helpful to Labour’s cause. But in mooting deselection, activists risk going too far the other way. Labour somehow needs to find a happy medium in which healthy debate can exist.

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