Well it’s been another dramatic week for the Labour Party. Four Labour MPs defied the whip and voted with the Tories on Tuesday night, effectively keeping May in power, sparking anger amongst Labour members and many Labour voters. Also, on Wednesday morning, senior Labour source John Woodcock resigned from the Labour Party to serve as an independent MP.
Watching all of this unfold, there was an ever-growing sense that the need for mandatory reselection in the Labour Party is essential. Jeremy Corbyn when running to be leader wanted to use his position to democratise the Labour Party. This has proven difficult in the maelstrom of nonsense he has had to endure since he was first elected, but the debate over mandatory reselection has cropped up again this year.
Mandatory reselection is advocated by many on the left and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and gives Constituency Labour Parties the ability to remove sitting MPs from their role for upcoming elections. Essentially, if a CLP decided that their MP wasn’t acting in the interests of their constituents or Labour members, they could be forced to stand down as a candidate for the next election. So, the Vauxhall CLP would, with mandatory reselection, be able to remove Kate Hoey as their candidate and instead select someone who will put the needs of her constituents and the demands of her party ahead of her personal views on Brexit or fox hunting.
This isn’t some tribalist method to shift Labour to the left, it’s common sense in a democracy. There is absolutely no reason why MPs should be granted a job for life if they are in a safe seat–they should be held accountable to their members. Despite the fact that in our democracy, we technically vote for a person and not a party, most people’s decisions are influenced by the national campaigns of the parties and not of individual candidates. Somebody elected as a Labour MP should be expected to represent their constituents and also actively work to enact the manifesto that the party presented to the public in the campaign.
John Woodcock is a Labour MP, he was re-elected in 2017 as a Labour MP thanks to the national campaigns of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, and may also have Corbyn’s media appearances and many speeches on the campaign trail to thank for his re-election. But he, as a prominent figure in Progress, has been very vocal in his criticisms of the Labour left and of Jeremy Corbyn. He will not serve adequately as a Labour MP to campaign for the overwhelmingly popular policies proposed in the 2017 Manifesto because of his inability to work with or under the current leadership. Thus he is arguably not adequately serving his constituents who voted for Labour, and the CLP in Barrow and Furness should be given the choice to deselect him should they wish to. Of course, they may not decide to do so–but that would be the democratic decision the have made. Although perhaps it doesn’t matter now, because he’s quit the Labour Party.
The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It says so on the back of every single member’s card. But for too long, Labour have been held back by their own MPs, with those on the right of the party briefing against the twice democratically-elected leader of the party, a leader who attracted 40% of the vote in 2017–which hadn’t been done since Tony Blair won in 2005. Mandatory reselection would allow the party to move forward, with constituencies being represented by MPs who will campaign for the policies of the party. It is not a leftist tactic to oust Blairite MPs.