Top Labour figures move to defuse row over deselection of Corbyn critics
Senior figures in Labour have lined up to insist MPs who have been hostile to Jeremy Corbyn should not be booted out of parliament by his supporters.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams called on Labour members to come together and take the fight to the Tories.
They follow Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer who in an exclusive interview for the House magazine said Labour should be "dignified and united" and stop debating mandatory reselection.
There have been increasing calls from Corbyn supporters for changes to the rules on the reselection of MPs since the Labour leader did better than expected at the recent general election.
Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson, a close ally of the leader, issued a stark warning to MPs who are not supportive that they should not expect a "job for life".
Liverpool Wavetree MP Luciana Berger – who has been critical of Mr Corbyn in the past – was last week ordered to apologise and threatened with deselection by a new member of her CLP board.
But speaking on the Andrew Marr show this morning, Ms Rayner said: "Luciana has done a tremendous amount of work. She’s an absolute valued member of the team.
"Anyone who talks of deselecting any of my colleagues, quite frankly, they need to think about actually, who are the real enemy here?
"Who are making the problems for our communities at the moment? Who have made those disastrous policies that are hurting the people that need us the most? It doesn’t help them if we’re fighting each other."
Ms Abrahams said those who support Labour "all need to come together" rather than warring amongst themselves.
She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge: "We have a very talented group of MPs, including some that have been there for a while and including those that have just come on board. We all need to work together and deliver.
"We could have an election in a few months and we need to be pulling together to make sure we can deliver for the country and for the people who've been marginalised and excluded for much too long."
Labour former minister Caroline Flint meanwhile said talk of mandatory reselection was "very sad" and "is misplaced and doesn’t help Labour".
Appearing on the BBC's Sunday Politics, she added: "I don’t think it helps Jeremy; I don’t think it helps the party...
"We need to focus on looking outwards, to understand that we have hardworking Labour MPs across the party who have different views across Labour’s political spectrum."
A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn last week suggested the leader could back mandatory reselection as part of plans to further “democratise” the party.
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.