Well, it looks as though Labour MPs are set to finally make a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. Angela Eagle has said she will set out her platform for the leadership on Monday. She is said to have the backing of the required 20% of the Parliamentary Labour Party, amounting to 51 MPs. Presumably the election will take place over the summer with the result being announced at Labour Party conference in September.
Unlike the Tory Party rules which state that if an incumbent leader loses a no confidence vote of Tory MPs, they are then barred from any subsequent leadership election, Labour party rules are less clear. This is exactly what happened to Iain Duncan Smith when he was deposed in 2003.
There are conflicting reports of whether or not Corbyn will be required to gain the backing of 51 Labour MPs or MEPs, to be on the ballot paper. Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock says that he will, citing a precedent in 1988 when he was challenged by Tony Benn. Kinnock did require and easily gained the support from his MPs and went to win the election overwhelmingly. But the rules have changed a bit since 1988, and I’m not so sure Kinnock is right.
I’m not an expert on the Labour Party’s rulebook, or even a Labour member, but my interpretation of the relevant rules is that Corbyn will automatically be entered onto ballot. The relevant rule 2 is this:
2. Election of leader and deputy leader
ii. Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.
iii. Affiliated organisations, the ALC, Young Labour, and CLPs and Labour Members of the European Parliament may also nominate for each of the offices of leader and deputy leader. All nominees must be Commons members of the PLP.
The important wording in 2 (ii) is ‘nominations may be sought by potential challengers.’ There is no stipulation for an incumbent leader to obtain nominations, only challengers.
(iii) If I am reading this clause correctly, in any event, Corbyn could be nominated by these groups, and it is highly likely that CLPs would nominate him if needed.
The decision could be put to the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC), which I think is quite finely balanced between pro and anti Corbyn members, and could in the end be tested in a court of law. So we may be in for a drawn out saga before the ballot even is allowed to take place.
To my mind, natural justice demands that Corbyn is on the election ballot, as he was overwhelmingly elected by the membership less than a year ago. Anything else will rightly be viewed as a stitch up by the MPs and the party establishment, riding roughshod over the wishes of a majority of the members, and would probably lead to a mass exodus of members.
But the Blairite MPs are willing to take this chance it seems. Far from Corbyn destroying the Labour Party as they claim, it is these MPs who are signing the death warrant of the party. If they don’t like Corbyn as leader, then they can leave the party, just like many Left members did during the Blair years. Why do they think they are any different, or in someway more important?
Quite frankly, good riddance to them.
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