Labour reveals plan to force by-elections on MPs who quit parties after Joan Ryan joins split

Posted On: 
20th February 2019

Labour would give voters the power to force a by-election on their MP if they switch party - after an eighth prominent figure joined a damaging splinter group.

The Labour MPs who quit the party on Monday have today been joined by Joan Ryan
Credit: 
PA Images

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said constituents should not have to wait for the next general election if their MP “is not properly representing their interests”.

But one angry Labour MP said Jeremy Corbyn could end up booted out of Parliament himself under the plans for “being an enabler of Jew-hating racists and a total sell-out on Europe”.

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It comes after an eighth MP quit the party in protest at its direction under Mr Corbyn and joined the Independents Group that was launched on Monday.

Enfield MP Joan Ryan blamed a “culture of anti-Semitism in the party” as she allied with the new movement set up by Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Ann Coffey.

On Tuesday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the Labour leadership would launch a “massive, mammoth” listening exercise and change course to stop more MPs leaving.

But today the party has announced it will consult on extending the power of voters to ‘recall’ their MPs to include those who leave the political banner they were elected to serve under.

Usually the recall process - which involves triggering a petition for a by-election - is reserved only for limited circumstances such as a criminal conviction or serious breach of parliamentary rules.

Shadow Cabinet Minister Jon Trickett said: “Power comes from the people but for too long the overwhelming majority have been shut out. That's why trust in politics and in elites is rightly falling.

“Communities should not have to wait for up to five years to act if they feel their MP is not properly representing their interests, especially with the restrictions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

“This proposed reform has the dramatic potential to empower citizens and will be one of many measures the Labour party is planning to consult on and announce that will change the way politics in this country is done.”

'IT'S THE LEADER THAT WILL DO FOR LABOUR'

But one Labour MP told PoliticsHome: “Instead of worrying about the people who have left, Jeremy Corbyn should be more concerned with uniting the party he still leads.

“One upside to extending recall powers is that the people of Islington North might recall their MP for being an enabler of Jew-hating racists and a total sell-out on Europe.

“It’s not the splitters that will do for Labour, it’s the leader.”

A recall petition must be signed by 10% of eligible constituents within 6 weeks to trigger a by-election.

Labour said it would consult on extending the rules as part of a wider programme of reform that will form a Constitutional Convention to revamp politics in Britain.