EXCL Labour MPs in marginal seats warn party bosses they are not ready for an election

Posted On: 
11th January 2019

Labour MPs in marginal seats have warned senior party officials they are not ready to fight an election if Theresa May's government is brought down by Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is on an 'election footing'.
PA Images

Emails seen by PoliticsHome outline the frustration of Labour backbenchers with majorities of less than 1,000, despite Jeremy Corbyn's repeated demands for Theresa May to call a snap poll.

One said: "We will shortly be expected to vote in a no confidence motion. Unfortunately, we are not confident."

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The MPs wrote to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby last September demanding urgent discussions to address their concerns and set out the party's strategy for holding onto their must-win seats.

But despite vowing to arrange a get-together soon after Labour annual conference that month, no meeting has yet taken place.

The emails were sent by former minister Helen Goodman - who held Bishop Aukland at the last election with a majority of 502 - and backed by 10 others, including Paul Sweeney, Ian Austin, Ged Killen and Danielle Rowley.

In the first email, sent on 7 September last year, Ms Goodman said: "As far as we can tell the party doesn’t yet have much of a strategy for holding our seats. The funding streams set up require matched funding, which for many of us is very difficult to raise and yet we are now an organisation with an annual income of over £50m pa. To match the Tories we believe the party should be putting £100,000 into all our seats and the 20 we wish to take, and moreover that this (is) now completely affordable."

Responding to the email on 12 September, Ms Formby said: "Thank you for your email; I’ll discuss with Niall Sookoo (our new Executive Director for Elections, Organising, Community Organising and Campaigns) and get back to you as soon as possible after conference."

However, no meeting was ever arranged and so Ms Goodman sent another email on behalf of herself and the other MPs yesterday afternoon.

In it, she said: "It is now 4 months since those of us with majorities under 1,000 wrote to ask you for a meeting to seek support for holding these seats for Labour.  We will shortly be expected to vote in a no confidence motion. Unfortunately, we are not confident.

"We note your public statements that the party is election-ready. This does not reflect our experience."

The MP added: "We believe that if we are to have the Labour government the country so desperately needs an effective campaign must also address the challenge we are facing on the ground from the Tories which is organised and well financed. This matter is now urgent."

It is understood that Ms Formby has responded to the most recent email in order to organise a meeting with the MPs and Labour’s campaign team.

A Labour spokesperson said: “With the government in chaos, the Labour party is on a permanent election footing and is providing resources and running campaigns in both offensive and defensive seats.”

In the wake of the last election, when Labour outperformed expectations to deny the Conservatives a majority, Jeremy Corbyn said the party was "in permanent campaign mode on a general election footing" in expectation of another snap poll.

And in a speech earlier this week, the Labour leader said: "A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all. So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide.

"To break the deadlock an election is not only the most practical option, it is also the most democratic option. It would give the winning party a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament and across the country."