Labour leadership condemns attempt to deselect pregnant MP over Chris Williamson row

Posted On: 
3rd July 2019

Labour bosses have finally condemned an attempt to deselect a heavily-pregnant Labour MP for criticising the decision to let Chris Williamson back into the party.

Ellie Reeves (right) with her sister and fellow Labour MP, Rachel.
PA Images

Ellie Reeves was one of more than 120 MPs and peers who backed calls for Jeremy Corbyn to "immediately" remove the Labour whip from Mr Williamson after his suspension over allegations of anti-semitism was lifted.

PoliticsHome revealed on Tuesday that a party member in Ms Reeves' Lewisham West and Penge constituency wanted her to face a "trigger ballot", which could have seen her replaced as the party's candidate for the next general election.

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In an email to the local party chairman John Clark, the party member said: "I would like to put forward a motion of no confidence in Ellie Reeves our MP for signing Tom Watson MP letter regarding Chris Williamson MP at our next meeting and also start the new trigger process to deselect our MP which you should have received from Jennie Formby."

In his response, Mr Clark suggests the member brings forward their motion in time for the branch's next general meeting on 6 July and recommends that he keeps it below 250 words.

Ms Reeves approached Mr Corbyn's office on Monday and asked them to intervene. When approached on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Labour leader refused to comment.

But in a surprise U-turn, a statement in the name of a Labour source issued on Wednesday morning said: "It would be wrong to bring a motion of no confidence against a pregnant MP who will soon be on maternity leave.

"No motion has been formally moved or tabled. And in any case, motions of no confidence have no formal standing and do not result in trigger ballots. Any MP who is on parental leave will not undergo reselection processes until they return from leave."

Ms Reeves said: "I was really pleased to receive a message from loto this morning saying the leader has stated he does not support the no confidence vote. This was the support I was hoping for when I contacted them about it on Monday."

Labour sources insisted officials had been in touch with members of Ms Reeves' local branch since Monday to try to resolve the situation.

But PoliticsHome has been told that Mr Clark was only contacted on Tuesday afternoon after the story broke.

It is understood the local party member has not dropped his attempt to bring a no confidence motion against Ms Reeves.

Earlier, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson had hit out at the attempt to "bully another pregnant MP out of the party".

He tweeted: "This reprehensible behaviour cannot be tolerated. We will not accept bullying and threats in our ranks. The entire shadow cabinet will want to publicly condemn this too."

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth also backed Ms Reeves - who is 22 weeks pregnant - by tweeting: "My friend is a socialist, an ex trade union lawyer who fought against injustices for working class people. She’s campaigned against oppression internationally eg trade unionists in Colombia for years. An excellent MP. Ludicrous no confidence motion should be binned."

It is understood that dozens of members of a WhatsApp group for female Labour MPs have also defended Ms Reeves, although no women in the Shadow Cabinet have responded.

Ms Reeves' case was also raised at Monday night's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party as well as at Tuesday's meeting of the Shadow Cabinet.