Momentum backs mandatory reselection of Labour party MPs

Momentum, the pro-Corbyn campaign group, has called for the mandatory reselection of Labour MPs ahead of the next general election.

The grassroots political movement will propose the mechanism — used in the past by the left to purge moderate Labour MPs — at the party’s autumn conference later this month.

In a statement, the group said the rule change would “open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs”.

At present Labour MPs do not routinely face a formal challenge from their own party ahead of elections. Labour’s more moderate MPs believe any process that allows such a challenge would be used to depose those on the right of the party, who have not fully supported Jeremy Corbyn since he took over as party leader in 2015.

Members of Momentum hope their proposal will be passed at the party conference, which begins on September 23, in Liverpool. The group’s strength was demonstrated on Monday when its candidates won eight out of nine seats on the national executive committee elected by ordinary party members.

Mandatory reselection was introduced by Labour in the early 1980s by supporters of Tony Benn, but it was abandoned in 1990 during the leadership of Neil Kinnock.

A Momentum spokeswoman said: “Labour’s selection procedure should be democratic, give a fair chance to all candidates and encourage positive campaigning.

“This means ending the divisive practice of forcing activists to campaign against sitting MPs and replacing it with a process that is open from the start.”

It came as Mr Corbyn faced increasing pressure to align Labour’s definition of anti-Semitism with that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. 

Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, called on Sunday for the party to adopt the IHRA definition “unanimously, unequivocally and immediately”.

The IHRA definition has associated examples, four of which Labour has so far not adopted in its own code of conduct because of concerns they curtail criticism of Israel.

Labour’s ruling national executive committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss a consultation on the issue, which has been carried out by a sub-section of the group over the summer.

The NEC will discuss its report and is expected to make a decision on adopting the IHRA definition and examples in full. Some members of the committee are expected to back the full definition, but only if a further proviso is added to protect freedom of speech.

Last week, Frank Field, a former Labour minister, resigned the Labour whip and warned the party had become “a force for anti-Semitism”.

Mr Field announced on Monday that he would not trigger a by-election in his Birkenhead constituency, but instead continue to sit an independent MP.

In a statement he said: “I now have what may become a major legal dispute with the Labour party over my continuing membership of the party. I shall fight any attempt at expelling me in every way I can and, if need be, in the courts.”

The one successful candidate in the NEC election not backed by Momentum was Peter Willsman. Momentum had withdrawn its support for him over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.


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