Corbyn allies seek to change Labour rules to shore up leadership
The push from a left-wing group to bypass the need to win support from Labour MPs comes as Momentum warns potential dissenters it is “absolutely equipped” to back another Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign.
Leadership hopefuls currently need the endorsement of 35 MPs to make it on the list put to Labour members.
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The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is arguing that the leader should be excluded from that requirement, as long as they put in writing their intention to stand again.
CLPD also proposes that the threshold of support be lowered from 15% to just 5% of MPs and MEPs, potentially making it easier for a left-winger to make the ballot paper.
Peter Willsman, the secretary of CLPD and member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, said it was “undemocratic for MPs and MEPs to have powers to so tightly restrict the range of candidates”.
On the automatic spot for the leader, Mr Willsman said: “Labour needs its rule book to be clear to ordinary people. Also, in the event of a leadership challenge, it would not help the party if it ends up in court having to argue over the meaning of our rules.
“Establishing clarity on this rule would discourage media stories that the leader can be replaced in a coup and assist the party in uniting to fight our political opponents. The purpose of this rule change is simply to tidy up the existing rule.”
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock dismissed the CLPD move as “party games”.
“It’s not exactly an expression of confidence in leadership, is it?” he told the Independent.
“Anyone who can’t get a large share of support from the Parliamentary Labour Party just can’t do the job.”
There has been speculation that Labour centrists could mount a leadership coup in the event of a bad showing in May’s council and assembly elections.
Momentum, however, has told the Guardian that it will fight any such challenge.
Jon Lansman, a senior figure in Momentum, said: “We campaigned to elect him and we will most certainly defend him and support him if there is a challenge.
“We absolutely have the machinery to run another leadership campaign if we have to and we are absolutely equipped to do that. And we will if necessary and I am confident we will win it.”
Mr Lansman also took aim at Mr Corbyn’s critics: “There are some people in the party who are more interested in creating an opportunity to challenge Jeremy than to win in May and I very much regret that.
“I very much regret that they do not seem to care about creating an appearance of disunity which does damage to the party.
“Having spent much of the last 30 years being lectured about the need to support the leadership, I find it incredible that those that did the lecturing now seem to have so completely changed their minds.”