Tony Blair refused to support plan to deselect Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
23rd July 2017

Tony Blair once defused a plan to deselect Jeremy Corbyn over his persistent rebellions against the Labour leadership, it has emerged. 

Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair at a remembrance day service
Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

Hilary Armstrong, who was Mr Blair’s chief whip, told the BBC’s Westminster Hour there was a proposal from some in Mr Corbyn’s Islington North CLP to replace the then-backbencher.

But the former prime minister had opposed the move and told them they would have “no support” from the leadership, she revealed.

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“I had folk from Jeremy’s constituency come to see me and say, ‘People are a bit upset with Jeremy always being against the Labour government, what if we try to deselect him?’,” she said.

“The Prime Minister was very clear about that when Jeremy was a backbench MP. And he was right; we shouldn’t have worked to deselect him. But I hope that Jeremy will now reflect on that and I hope that he will be absolutely determined to make sure it doesn’t happen under his watch.”

Mr Corbyn rebelled against the Labour whip hundreds of times when he was a backbench MP.

Baroness Armstrong warned there was a risk of Labour factions turning on one another, and urged Mr Corbyn to put an end to CLP meetings when the sitting MP is subject to a “process of harassment” by some of the leaders’ supporters.

“All this is meant to do is grind them down, is wear them down, and get them to believe they shouldn't be in the Labour party any more.”

She added: “The real issue is, can you make sure that sectarianism doesn’t rule? And at the moment, in some areas, it is ruling.

“Jeremy has the opportunity over the summer and at party conference to make it absolutely clear that he is not going to lead a narrow sectarian faction, he’s going to lead a broad church that is tolerant. And the real test for Jeremy is, is he up to it?”