Labour chair Ian Lavery backs off on deselection threats
A top Labour boss has rowed back on threats that MPs hostile to Jeremy Corbyn could face deselection - just days after he said the party was “too broad a church”.
Party chairman Ian Lavery said mandatory reselection was not “the way forward” after a row over the issue exploded in the wake of Labour’s better than expected election performance.
A local branch of the pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum is said to have drawn up a hitlist of centrist MPs it wants to oust, while a key ally of the Labour leader yesterday stoked the flames.
Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson suggested disloyal MPs should be removed to “keep Labour fresh and updated”.
But party chairman Mr Lavery said he disagreed with the Derby North MP, telling the Daily Mirror: “I don’t see deselection as the way forward.
“What I believe is the existing trigger ballot system is the way forward.
“I do believe constituencies have the right to select their candidate and that’s the current system. I don’t see any need to drastically change the rules.”
His comments are in stark contrast to a week ago, when he told the Huffington Post: "If you get de-selected in a constituency there must be a reason for it."
Under the current system, MPs only face a re-selection process if a majority of branches and affiliate groups in their constituencies vote against their automatic candidacy.
In such a case a contest is opened over who will stand in the seat - in which the sitting MP is automatically in the running.
But some in Labour want contests in seats without the security barrier of the initial trigger ballot.
Mr Lavery said: “We need to do what we did at the election: Young people from the Progress side and the Momentum side joining forces together, enthused and wanting Labour to win,” he said.
“We took giant strides under Jeremy at the election just gone and we’re knocking on the door of 10 Downing Street. It’s not a pipe dream – we’ll win the next election and that’s why the Tories are running scared.
“We have to pick up the cudgel and run with the idea that we can be in office in a short period of time.”
Only a week ago Mr Lavery said MPs no "divine right" to keep their jobs if local members want them out.
Mr Williamson - who was only re-elected MP for Derby North a month ago - claimed it was “unreasonable” for colleagues to think they could avoid future selection battles with their local parties.
“There are interest groups and individual MPs in this party who think it's their god-given right to rule," he said in a statement yesterday.
"No MP should be guaranteed a job for life and it's crucial that we all get with the times. MPs elected in earlier phases of this party run the risk of failing to understand what is really going on out there in society.
"Yes, Labour is a big church, but we currently have a large bulk of MPs who represent one relatively small tendency in the congregation. To keep Labour fresh and updated we need MPs who can win the support of the mass membership.”
His comments were backed today by former Labour frontbencher Clive Lewis.
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