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The ‘ridiculously vindictive’ attempt to deselect Diana Johnson has provoked enormous anger in the Labour Party

4 min read

This deselection attempt comes at the end of a controversial week of unprecedented events, writes Baroness Taylor

Recess? What recess? Usually after the summer recess it takes a few days for Parliament to get back in the swing of things – not so this year. Indeed for many people the last weeks of the recess were as busy as ever especially following the decision of the Prime Minister to announce the dates of prorogation and the Queen’s Speech.

The shock of a five-week gap between the two led to genuine concern about the PM’s intentions and with each day alarm grew. As his possible plans became clearer so did the resolve of his opponents.

So the House of Commons went immediately into overdrive on the first day back with a statement on EU Withdrawal, an emergency debate, defeat of the Government and the introduction of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) Bill…

Meanwhile in the Lords attention turned to how we would deal with that Bill given the deadline of prorogation which could have meant insufficient time in the Lords to go through all the stages of the Bill.

These discussions involved special party meetings and a range of cross party, and no-party, meetings. This led to a great deal of support for the Leader of the Opposition in the Lords, Angela Smith, who moved a business motion on Wednesday to ensure that the Lords could fulfil its responsibility and deal with the Bill before prorogation.

As we don’t have timetabling of Bills in the Lords this was extremely controversial – but so were the circumstances. A strong and healthy majority of Peers on all sides of the house made it clear that they supported such a move. However we saw a barrage of amendments, and a series of less than significant speeches, as the opponents of this Bill decided to try to block it.

We had 17 votes on Wednesday ending in the early hours of Thursday morning when the Government agreed procedures to ensure the Bill was considered properly. So we all packed our bags, duvets and sleeping bags and struggled to find our way home. Thankfully the Kinnock amendment remained and the Bill then went through the House to become law on Monday.

As I chair the Constitution Committee, my Wednesday had started many hours earlier. We were taking evidence on the Fixed Term Parliament Act as part of an enquiry started in the early summer, which has become even more topical over the past few weeks, even as parliament has not been sitting.

The committee timing meant I missed PMQs, which is usually a relief. But I did catch up with the unusual but very much merited outburst of applause for the question from Tan Dhesi.

The rest of the week was punctuated by individual events – each of which would be a show stopper in normal circumstances. There have been so many staggering events in such a short space of time: the PM’s failed attempt to call a general election, the withdrawal of the whip (sometimes by voicemail!), the resignation and statement of Jo Johnson followed by that of Amber Rudd and talk of the declaration of a national emergency to circumvent Parliament.

Where will it end? I have no idea. What I do know is that in my own party there is enormous anger about the trigger ballot against Diana Johnson, one of our most effective and admired MPs, and both parties seem to be trying to outdo each other in ridiculously vindictive deselections.

Most weekends, I would have been able to escape all of this for a couple of hours at the football. But my recently saved Bolton Wanderers were due to play Bury who were tragically expelled from the Football League a couple of weeks ago. The outrage, not just amongst football fans, must surely lead to the Government accepting what we all know: that current Governance in Football is not fit for purpose and change must come.

Baroness Taylor is a Labour Peer

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