Owen Smith has just begun his leadership challenge with loud cries “who the hell is that guy?” from the Labour electorate. His campaign has already has some speed bumps including people revealing his history as a lobbyist and sexist comments he made to the leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood when he thought his microphone wasn’t recording. However now he has twisted was Jeremy Corbyn has said about the deselection of MPs and this mustn’t be allowed to go unchallenged.
The Pontypridd MP has accused the Labour leader of “threatening to sack MPs” because Corbyn correctly answered a question about deselection. Jeremy Corbyn was launching his re-election campaign at a press event at University College London when he was asked a question about mandatory re-selection. This was his response:
“On mandatory re-selection, at the moment selection takes place when there is a trigger ballot system where a constituency party decides whether or not it wishes to have a full selection process, and that trigger ballot system pertains. There is going to be, as you know, a total boundary review which will have the first report out this autumn and it will finally be implemented in 2018. If this parliament runs to full term then the new boundaries will be the basis upon which elections will take place. In that case there would be a full selection process in every constituency but the sitting MP of any part or any substantial part of the new boundary would have an opportunity to put their name forward. So there will be a full and open selection process for every Constituency Labour Party (CLP) throughout the whole of the UK and we’ll know the first draft of the boundary review this year.”
So essentially what Corbyn said is that the current constituency map will be redrawn before the next election and therefore the current MPs won’t be able to stand in their current constituencies because they will no longer exist in their present form. Accordingly, all MPs will have to be re-selected for their new seats and the current MPs will be able to put themselves forward. How on earth is this “threatening to sack MPs”? It’s not, Owen Smith is a liar who is trying to misrepresent people in order to win the leadership election. Even if you don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, it would be intellectually dishonest to say that the above quote amounts to a purge of dissenters. All MPs would have to stand again in CLP elections, including himself, an no leader orchestrated purge would include themselves in the purge would they?
Boundary reviews happen all the time in politics and the last one took place in 2005 when Labour was in office under Tony Blair. Did anyone accuse Blair or trying to purge his enemies when he asked for the same thing as Corbyn? No, because it’s not a bloody purge. If you are the Labour MP for Narnia South, to take a fictional example, and your constituency is merged with Narnia North, which is also held by a Labour MP, who will be the MP of the newly created Narnia constituency? It cannot be both of them, so they both are deselected and the Narnia CLP has an election in which the two old MPs can put their names forward. Not difficult to understand, by Smith knows that because he’s a fucking liar.
The thing about deselection really annoys me though, because it shows that Labour MPs have utter contempt for the membership. Labour MPs who are worried about deselection are all the ones who have been openly deriding the leadership and briefing against them in the press. Don’t get me wrong I’m fine with people criticising leaders, in fact I encourage it, but in a political party openly criticising the leader chosen by the membership may have consequences. Labour MPs are complaining about the prospect of losing a primary election whilst insulting the intelligence of the membership, the very people who vote in the primary.
MPs have the freedom to say what they please and vote whichever way they want to, but this doesn’t absolve them of consequences. For example if a Labour MP voted to cut welfare payments for the disabled, that MP cannot complain that his local CLP want to deselect them. It’s the CLP’s prerogative to have a primary election if they so wish, and to allow as many candidates as they so wish. The boundary review is forcing CLPs to have primaries, however if these moaning MPs were confident in the power of their ideas they have nothing to worry about, right?
Owen Smith tried to pitch himself as a radical Left MP like Jeremy Corbyn but also someone who is more personable with the PLP. He is not a radical MP as people who are conviction politicians don’t sell out their principles by working as a lobbyist. Corbyn is a trade unionist and therefore decided to work for a trade union before becoming an MP. I find it very hard to trust someone who claims to be a socialist who used to lobby for a private medical company and who made statements calling for “greater incentives” for private health companies in regards to generic medicines.
I don’t believe that Smith wants to privatise the NHS but to claim that he is a radical is bloody ridiculous. He may well get on better with the PLP but I don’t think the PLP is going to last very long, as many Labour Party members are sick of MPs undermining the leader that they democratically elected with the largest mandate in the history of the party. Change is coming to the PLP, but it will be members that force this change, and not a top-down diktat from the leadership.
What is baffling is that Corbyn is said to be so incompetent that he cannot oppose the Tories effectively but is also a Machiavellian genius in which he’s plotting against the PLP. Both cannot be true, and considering that the boundary review isn’t done by the opposition, he clearly isn’t trying to deselect people. Again, if they have nothing to worry about then they will be fine, but if the membership don’t think they are doing enough the members have the right to deselect them. That is how the party operates, so the PLP should get used to it.