Labour row explodes over Frank Field membership after dramatic resignation

Posted On: 
31st August 2018

A row has exploded in the Labour party over whether veteran MP Frank Field is still a member after he dramatically resigned the party whip.

Labour veteran Frank Field resigned the whip on Thursday
Credit: 
PA Images

Labour sources said the Birkenhead MP “automatically” dumped his membership when he made his explosive move yesterday over the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the party.

But the former minister told PoliticsHome he would remain a member for two weeks, at which point he would be forced to choose between re-taking the whip or expulsion from the party.

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Mr Field also vowed to launch a legal battle with Labour bosses, saying: “I will appeal the expulsion with the best lawyers possible.”

The Work and Pensions Committee chair was told in a meeting with Labour chief whip Nick Brown today that his dumping of the whip means he automatically opted to quit the party in full under party rules.

He announced on Thursday that he would sit as an “independent Labour MP,” as he accused Jeremy Corbyn of allowing the party to become "a force for anti-Semitism" in British politics.

However, critics have noted that he was facing a deselection threat from local members who were angry that he backed the Government in July on a crunch Brexit vote.

Mr Field insisted he would remain a Labour MP despite resigning the whip - but Mr Brown told him that was not an option as his move constituted an automatic resignation from the party.

The Birkenhead MP told PoliticsHome: “I am a Labour member.”

He added: “I have two weeks before I’m expelled. I will appeal the expulsion with the best lawyers possible.

“In that appeal I will point out that members of the House of Lords can be members of the party and not take the whip.”

However, a Labour source said it was not the case that Mr Field would remain a member for two weeks, as he had given up his membership when he sent his resignation letter on Thursday.

PoliticsHome understands Mr Field will also have a phone conversation with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell about the situation in the coming days.

BY-ELECTION 

Pro-Brexit MP Mr Field suffered a vote of no confidence in his local Labour party in July after he defied the party whip to vote with the Government on a crucial customs issue.

Some allies of Mr Corbyn have said Mr Field should quit his seat altogether and trigger a by-election.

The veteran MP did not close the door on standing as an independent candidate, telling the BBC he would spend "the next few days" making a decision on whether or not to trigger a by-election.

He said: "I will obviously make a decision about whether I should actually have a by-election or not.

"I will be in Birkenhead, people will be talking to me, coming up to me in the street to see whether they want me to have a by-election or not."

Meanwhile, Momentum chief Jon Lansman offered a dig at Mr Field as he said Birkenhead Labour members could "move on from London-based candidates" and opt for a "working class" figure.