Let me be clear: I believe in open selections, but this… [is] about using the press to try to ‘rid’ the party of MPs who are, in the main, socialists and who were supportive of the previous leader – Nadia Jama, Labour NEC Member
This year’s conference saw the leadership press for a number of rule changes. The rationale offered for the changes was to make the Party more electable, with Keir adding that MPs shouldn’t have to worry about being triggered by members as they need to focus on their constituents.
Yet just two months later, as CLPs vote on whether to trigger a reselection of their MP, we hear a “Labour source” brief to journalists that some left MPs are being targeted for just that. These MPs are some of the best socialists within our movement – Zarah Sultana, Ian Byrne and Apsana Begum, to name but a few.
For me, this is the pinnacle of hypocrisy we sometimes encounter within our party. We saw the utter outrage when the left supported the democratic right of open selections – something councillors and other elected officials go through by default. There is nothing special about MPs and no-one should believe they have a job for life as an MP. I also believe it’s important that we take advantage of all the talent we have within our movement.
I think the recent briefings were worrying for a different reason. Let me be clear: I believe in open selections, but the anonymous media comments aren’t about standing up for the members’ right to select an MP of their choosing – it’s about using the press to try to ‘rid’ the party of MPs who are, in the main, socialists and who were supportive of the previous leader.
We are a broad church of political leanings and views, a party with two wings we often hear – so the attempts to brief against and destabilise socialist MPs, just to push your own political faction and agenda, harms us all.
Not to mention, some of the left MPs targeted have been subjected to the most vile racism, sexism and threats to their safety, so the anonymous comments to the media were particularly unpalatable. This is a time when as a party we need to be pulling together, not making factional attacks for headlines.
It’s also worth saying that open selections would make this kind of destabilising, rumour-mongering in the press less likely than the current trigger ballot system because they make selection competitions routine, rather than something out of the ordinary.
I have to say, as the anonymous sources briefed, it was disappointing that there was no rebuttal from Keir, given how passionately he spoke about why MPs shouldn’t have to face trigger ballots; this was an opportunity he could have used to reiterate the reasons behind his conference rule changes.
The internal factionalism has been on the increase over the last 18 months, despite Keir promising in his 10 pledges that he would be committed to unifying the party. Unity is essential if we are to see a Labour Government; we know that divided parties don’t win elections, so I do hope he will send a message of support to the MPs who were targeted recently.
In the meantime, I would encourage all members to support those MPs under threat. We can’t stand by and see socialist MPs targeted by trolls on twitter, abused, or threatened. Unity is strength.
The party is not a social club, not everyone will agree with each other, but it’s how we respectfully disagree with each other that is key to our success – we need a coalition of political views and that means those views being represented at all levels of the party. I would encourage those Labour sources who chose to attack some of the socialist MPs – just as we saw the last leader briefed against – to think before they contact the media and ask themselves who their narrative is helping or hindering.