Harriet Harman insists she will 'not back down' after local Labour members urge her to ditch Commons Speaker bid

Posted On: 
20th September 2019

Harriet Harman has said she will "not back down" after members of her local Labour party warned they could try to oust her unless she shelves her bid to become Commons Speaker.

A local motion argues that if Ms Harman becomes Speaker she will 'deprive' local residents of a voice.

The Camberwell and Peckham MP is facing pressure from her Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to withdraw from the race to succeed John Bercow.

But Ms Harman, a former Labour deputy leader, said the role of the Speaker was "vital" and insisted she would show an "unshakable" commitment to her London constituents if she took on the job.

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The defiant comments come after her CLP passed a motion drawn up by Nick Wrack - who once stood against Ms Harman as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate - arguing that Camberwell would lose a voice in Parliament if Ms Harman becomes Speaker and raising the prospect of challenging her as MP.

The motion - which was carried by 26 votes to 22 at a meeting on Thursday night - says Labour will need "the largest and strongest presence possible in the House of Commons to support the Labour manifesto, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and radical socialist policies".

Commons Speakers are expected to remain politically impartial and must resign from their party when they take up the chair.

However, they are expected to continue to serve constituents in the same way any other MP does and parties traditionally do not run candidates against them at elections.

But the motion warns: "The absence of a Labour MP will deprive one of the most deprived constituencies in the UK of much-needed Labour representation in parliament.

"The meeting agrees that Camberwell and Peckham CLP does not support Harriet Harman in her endeavour to become Speaker and calls on her to withdraw from the contest."

Hitting back in a string of tweets on Friday, Ms Harman said: "A confident & respected House of Commons representing every constituency in this country & holding govt to account is vital to our parliamentary democracy. The Speaker is at the heart of this - that’s why I going for it."

And she added: "I’ll always be there for the people of Camberwell & Peckham as I have throughout the last 37 years. I have pledged that my commitment to them will be unshakable if I become Speaker.

"The overwhelming majority of members of Camberwell & Peckham Labour Party understand the importance of a strong & fair Speaker & support me in this bid.

"I will not back down! "

The former minister has already been backed by fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy, who quoted pop star Taylor Swift as she tweeted: "Actually thought it was a parody - The brocialists want to come at the Labour legend that is and try to tell her not to stand for speaker without their permission? in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, they need to calm down ....and not step on her gown..."

And Labour Jess Phillips told PoliticsHome: "I think Harriet would be a brilliant Speaker and this nonsense orchestrated by a man who stood against her for another political party is clearly the action of someone who has no understanding what she has done for women in this country and no understanding of how well respected she is."

The SNP's Stewart McDonald also heaped praise on the candidate for Speaker, saying she had been "one of the first MPs to come and offer me support" after far-right activist Tommy Robinson turned up at his constituency office.

"She gave me her phone number and told me to call her if me or my staff needed anything," Mr McDonald said. "She deserves better than this."