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Keir Starmer Has Been Dealt A Blow As Labour MPs Quit Their Roles And Rebelled Over A 'Spycops' Bill

3 min read

Two Labour MPs have quit Keir Starmer’s front bench team and four more resigned from party roles to vote against the “spycops” bill that gives protections to undercover agents.

In a day of high drama for Labour – overshadowed by government rows with northern leaders about coronavirus restrictions – Starmer suffered the biggest rebellions from the Parliamentary party since he took over as leader in April.

The bill has been criticised over concerns it breaches human rights by allowing undercover agents to commit criminal offences and have immunity from prosecution.

The legislation does not provide for a ban on children being used as agents, or torture or murder in the line of work.

This evening 34 MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, broke ranks to vote against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) bill at third reading, despite a three-line whip to abstain.

Dan Carden, who served as shadow financial secretary, and Margaret Greenwood, shadow schools minister, both said they had to stand down from the front bench as a matter of principle.

Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, Kim Johnson, and Nav Mishra, MP for Stockport, who were parliamentary private secretaries to the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner both quit, as did Mary Foy, a PPS to Andy McDonald, and Rachel Hopkins, a PPS to Marsha de Cordova. All are members of the party’s Socialist Campaign Group.

Sarah Owen also rebelled, and it was rumoured tonight she may have also left her brand new job as PPS to shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves.

Outside of Westminster outspoken critics of the bill have included Kate Wilson, who was one of several women involved in a fake relationship with police officer Mark Kennedy, who posed as an environmental activist for seven years.

Corbyn said the bill being debated in such a short amount of time was a "travesty" to Parliamentary accountablity. None of the four amendments, including one proposed by Labour that would have banned torture, rape and murder as permissable criminal activity, were voted through.

The former Labour leader said: "There are those, like me, who have seen the activities of undercover police operations in trade unions and the blacklisting of wholly legitimate trade union representatives, who have spent 20 years and more being unable to work, as electricians, as carpenters or as plumbers, because they have been blacklisted secretly by groups of employers, when the police knew about it all along."

Mr Carden, in his resignation letter to Sir Keir, said: “You will understand that as a Liverpool MP and trade unionist, I share the deep concerns about this legislation from across the labour movement, human rights organisations, and so many who have suffered the abuse of state power, from blacklisted workers to the Hillsborough families and survivors.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Once again, Labour has refused to stand up for those who protect our country and keep us all safe.

“Their leader may have changed, but Labour still can’t be trusted on national security.”

Correction: Margaret Greenwood has quit as shadow schools minister. An earlier version of this post said that Kate Green resigned the role.

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