After quitting their old parties, the Independent Group (TIG) suffered a furious backlash for refusing to call by-elections. Perhaps with the Brexit mayhem now taking centre stage, they hoped by-election questions would stop. But this is not the case.
Mike Gapes grilled on a BBQ
Burley has a history of vigorously pursuing TIG MPs over by-elections. On 20 February, she dissected former Labour MP Angela Smith during this excruciating encounter:
"If you're so confident, why not have a by-election?" 😏 pic.twitter.com/wvUNEvJmcy
— Momentum (@PeoplesMomentum) February 20, 2019
And when she encountered Gapes, Burley didn’t hold back. She quizzed Gapes not only on his opposition to a by-election but a general election too:
Why can’t they just admit they don’t want a general election because they’d lose their seats, which any honest person knows is obviously the case? pic.twitter.com/wFlH4IRVMd
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) March 13, 2019
people at home will say, ‘Oh, come on! You want a second referendum but you don’t want a by-election?
Well actually, these are completely different questions.
But Burley interrupted:
Well it’s not. If you wouldn’t mind, I’ll pose the questions and perhaps you’d like to answer them.
No appetite for a by-election, apparently…
Gapes suggested that there’s no demand for calling a by-election, claiming:
I’ve only had four constituents contact me saying there should be a by-election. And I have people stopping me on the streets saying ‘stay in parliament’.
But the Labour head of Redbridge Council in Ilford has called for a by-election. And members of Ilford South Constituency Labour Party (CLP) are clearly keen to win the seat back from Gapes:
Want to support Ilford South Labour to win back Ilford South for Labour at the next general election, or if a by-election is called? Please donate today! You can donate from as little as £5 per month! Set up a regular payment to Ilford South CLP now at https://t.co/oYeUnyRko2 pic.twitter.com/JYuOeFly43
— Ilford South Labour (@IlfordSouthCLP) February 22, 2019
Gapes, the exceptional individual
Gapes then claimed that he was voted in as an individual, boasting how he’d won “seven elections”:
We have a parliamentary system and people stand on a ballot paper with their name. We don’t have party lists. I’m not a delegate to be removed by a party; I’m elected by my constituents.
Burley was sceptical:
Yeah, but you chose to stand under the Labour banner and I’m sure that red rose probably helped you, do you not think? …Or, if you’d stood as an independent you’d have got as many votes?
But Gapes was defiant, claiming a by-election would be:
a distraction from the crisis the country faces.
The ‘no majority = no referendum’ dilemma
Burley then asked why Gapes prefers a referendum to a general election:
Parliament’s in stalemate, there isn’t an overall majority for the government, so surely the only way to sort that out is a general election?
Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani concurred with Burley:
A second referendum is close to impossible without a general election first (there aren’t numbers in commons).
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) March 13, 2019
And Burley’s final speculation as to why Gapes really opposes a general election was the nail in his coffin:
You don’t want a general election because you know you’ll lose your seat.
Gapes’ foreign policy record: an election disaster in the making
There is every reason to believe that Burley is correct. Not least because polling shows the majority of people support Jeremy Corbyn’s non-interventionist foreign policy.
Independent Group foreign affairs spokesman Mike Gapes on why the Iraq war wasn’t a mistake: “most Iraqis would not ever want Saddam back … you've got to look at it in that perspective.”https://t.co/5z7mPocmvA
— New Statesman (@NewStatesman) March 1, 2019
Gapes was also part of what Channel 4 News Fact Check called a “Saudi Charm offensive”. He was one of “at least 33 MPs” who accepted trips paid for by Saudi Arabia since the beginning of its war with Yemen in 2015.
And Gapes supports the overthrow of the Venezuelan government and the installation of the American-backed replacement, Juan Guaidó:
Juan Guaidó: Venezuela has chance to leave chaos behind | World news | The Guardian https://t.co/1On55RQURQ
— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) January 27, 2019
If Gapes and his TIG colleagues believe such policies enjoy public support, they should test that theory in an election. Just as they are challenging the public mandate for Brexit and seeking a second referendum, they should also test their own mandates as MPs.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?