By Campaign Agent Matthew Waterfield
Since 2015, calls for deselections have become louder across the political spectrum. Many hard left Labour activists are now seeking to deselect some of the moderate Labour MPs who’ve criticised Jeremy Corbyn, while some Eurosceptic Conservative Party members are aiming to deselect the pro-EU Conservative MPs who they believe are trying to disrupt the Brexit process.
But the idea of deselecting MPs for ideological reasons has been relatively uncommon in the last few decades. More often than not, MPs have been deselected by their local parties for more personal reasons – Anne McIntosh was seen as “bad-mannered”, Tim Smith was deselected after his involvement in the ‘cash-for-questions’ affair was revealed and Anne Moffat’s downfall came about due to “tensions over her style”.
The number of MPs who’ve been deselected in recent years for ideological reasons is very low, with the victims usually being on the more extreme wing of their party; Bob Wareing, the hard left Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, and George Gardiner, the fiercely Eurosceptic Conservative MP for Reigate, spring to mind.
But times are changing. Following his victory in the 2015 Labour leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn and his allies have taken control of vast swathes of the Labour Party, including the NEC and the position of general secretary. This will help the hard left in their quest to change the composition of the PLP, as control of the party machinery will remove some of the obstacles to deselecting MPs that they otherwise would’ve faced.
While there was not enough time for CLPs to deselect their MPs in 2017, due to the nature of the snap election, several Labour MPs still have targets on their heads. Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and Jess Phillips are among those on the moderate wing of the party who may have to fight off deselection attempts in the run-up to the next general election and it remains to be seen whether or not Labour’s rules regarding deselection will be changed to make the process easier, which would put even more MPs at risk.
Although the focus had been almost solely on Labour at the time, there were multiple attempts in the build-up to the 2017 election to deselect an array Conservative MPs. David Mackintosh, embroiled in scandal, stood down as the MP for Northampton South when it became clear he was about to be deselected. Attempts were also made to deselect Jack Lopresti, for cheating on his wife with a fellow Conservative MP, and Lucy Allan, who was accused of bullying her staff, both of which narrowly failed.
These attempts, however, were for non-ideological reasons. Since it became clear that a group of Conservative MPs were prepared to vote against the government over the issue of Brexit, there have been calls for them to be deselected. Philip Lee, the justice minister who resigned last week over Brexit, is now facing the possibility of being deselected by his local association due to his actions, while other pro-EU rebels, such as Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston, may face the same prospect.
Sources and further reading:
- Patrick Sawer, ''Dirty tricks, snide comments, and hostile letters': how Tory MP Anne McIntosh was ousted', The Telegraph (2 February 2014)
- Severin Carrol, 'Scottish MP Anne Moffat sacked by Labour', The Guardian (19 March 2010)
- Ben Turner, 'Rebel MP Bob Wareing axed by Labour', Liverpool Echo (17 September 2009)
- Anne Perkins, ‘Corbyn ally Jennie Formby named Labour general secretary’, The Guardian (20 March 2018)
- ‘Momentum dismisses Labour MP deselection 'hit list' as Tories trail eight points in new poll’, The Telegraph (7 July 2017)
- Stephen Bush, ‘What rule changes are likely to affect how Labour selects its MPs?’, New Statesman (6 April 2018)
- Matt Precey & Julian Sturdy, ‘Northampton Town loan: MP David Mackintosh faces deselection fight’, BBC News (21 April 2017)
- Liz Bates, ‘Theresa May blocked move to deselect Tory rebel Heidi Allen, ex-chief aide reveals’, Politics Home (17 December 2017)
Image Credit: Colin @ Wikipedia