Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown facing MPs' rebellion after addressing Momentum event

Posted On: 
12th December 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Commons enforcer is facing a major backbench rebellion after he addressed a Momentum meeting which called for mandatory re-selection for Labour MPs.

Nick Brown (left) at a meeting of the Shadow Cabinet
Credit: 
PA Images

Nick Brown said the parliamentary Labour party must unite behind Jeremy Corbyn at the event last week.

But that has sparked a furious backlash among MPs - with some even threatening to "work to rule" by refusing to take orders from the whips' office.

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Labour MPs are also angry that three shadow ministers - Daniel Zeichner, Tulip Siddiq and Catherine West - were allowed to vote against the party in last week's crunch Brexit vote without being punished.

A delegation of veteran Labour backbenchers will meet with Mr Brown to voice their concerns this week, while a letter to the Chief Whip signed by a number of angry MPs is also being drawn up.

At last week's Momentum North regional meeting, delegates voted unanimously in favour of allowing local Labour branches to draw up their own short-lists of candidates before each general election, with the winner being chosen in a ballot of party activists.

Moderate Labour MPs fear such a move would see them being ousted by left-wing supporters of Mr Corbyn.

Mr Brown, who was the keynote speaker at the event, told the meeting: "First and foremost, I think the party has to accept that Jeremy won fair and square and is the leader of the Labour party.

"It’s up to the rest of us to support his leadership and to make sure that the parliamentary Labour party can work in a single-minded, united and effective way, standing up for Labour’s core values, holding the Government to account, setting out our alternative agenda and giving an example of unity to the rest of the Labour party and more generally to the Labour and trade union movement. That’s what I’m setting out to achieve."

One senior backbencher told PoliticsHome: "On the one hand the Chief Whip wants to curry favour with a divisive faction and is expecting discipline from backbenchers, while at the same time turning a blind eye to shadow ministers who vote against the frontbench.

"There is a real sense of disbelief and anger that Nick would allow himself to be used by an organisation like Momentum, who are getting more discredited by the day, even among Jeremy Corbyn supporters."

Another Labour MP told the Huffington Post: "The Chief Whip is supposed to represent unity and here he was as keynote speaker at this organisation that wants to deselect Labour MPs. It’s astonishing.

"Lots of people are saying they will now ‘work to rule’. If you feed the dogs at a Momentum meeting, all requests for loyalty go out of the window.

“People can vote when they want, rebel when they want. That’s without precedent. They will have real difficulty trying to enforce discipline on backbenchers if they say it’s OK for shadow ministers to do as they like on something as important as Brexit.

"Why should any of us pay a blind bit of notice to anything the whips say? They fatally undermined what tiny authority and credibility the whips’ office had."

Mr Brown became Labour's Chief Whip for the third time after Mr Corbyn sacked Rosie Winterton from the post in October.

Meanwhile, tonight's meeting of the PLP heard that voters had "stopped listening" to Labour.

The stark message was delivered by Vernon Coaker, who ran the party's campaign at the Sleaford and Hykeham by-election.

Labour slumped from second place at the general election to fourth, trailing in behind the Conservatives, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats.

A Momentum spokesperson said: "Momentum is not campaigning for mandatory reselection or the deselection of any MP. Selections are a matter for local party members and affiliates, in accordance with Labour Party rules."