EXCL Ex-MPs' watchdog chair confronts Labour leadership for blocking Jess Phillips

Posted On: 
12th December 2018

The former head of the Standards Committee angrily confronted Jeremy Corbyn after Labour blocked Jess Phillips' appointment to the watchdog, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Labour had initially nominated Jess Phillips for a place on the Standards Committee
Credit: 
PA

Veteran Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron, who stepped down as chair of powerful committee earlier this year, demanded to know why Ms Phillips had been prevented from taking up the vacant Labour place on the body.

PoliticsHome revealed last month that the Birmingham Yardley MP - an outspoken critic of Mr Corbyn - had been nominated by Labour to take a seat on the committee, with the appointment even appearing on the House of Commons order paper on 19 November.

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But at the last minute, Labour indicated that other MPs were now interested in taking up the vacancy and her nomination was withdrawn.

Sir Kevin raised the issue with Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown at the party’s weekly meeting of MPs on Tuesday night, which Mr Corbyn also attended.

But Mr Brown batted away the concerns, saying he was unable to give any answers at that time, while the Labour leader did not take part in the exchange.

As things stand, the Labour vacancy on the committee still remains unfilled.

Speaking to PoliticsHome when the story first emerged, Ms Phillips said: "If it is the case that others wanted to go on the Standards Committee I'm really pleased that there is interest in this important role.

"What worries me about the fact that my nomination was stopped is that it highlights that the current process is that party leaders have power over who goes on the Standards Committee - apart from the chair - and lays bare a flaw where once again political patronage and protection can subvert a process that now more than ever needs to be trusted.

"Surely political parties could just fill it with yes men. I don't think this has ever been the case, so I'm not sure why my nomination was withdrawn.

"I think Labour putting me on the committee, after my months of efforts and work along with the previous and current chair of the Standards Committee to try to improve the independent parliamentary system and ensure it can be trusted, would have sent a really strong message. I very much still hope to take up the role."