Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commenced his (hopefully) final stand off against the right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party today, and he delivered a message the whole country should hear.
Speaking at the Institute of Education, Corbyn gave a speech highlighting the “five ills of 21st Century Britain” – inequality, neglect, insecurity, prejudice and discrimination. He laid out how the party would focus on removing those ills from society, painting a vision of a vastly more democratic and cooperative Britain than we have enjoyed of late.
He began by walking through the progress Labour had made during his 10 months as leader, saying:
Labour is stronger. We’ve won every parliamentary by-election we’ve faced, three of them with very significantly increased majorities. We overtook the Tories in the May elections, and we won all four mayoral contests. In Liverpool and Salford, in London (for the first time since 2004), and Bristol for the first time ever.
The Labour leader also confirmed the very worst fears for the Labour MPs plotting to topple him. If they fail, they’re out.
As Corbyn began to lay out his vision for the country at the launch of his leadership campaign, he signalled that there is a very uncertain future on the horizon for mutinous Labour MPs. Noting the current boundary review being undertaken by the Boundary Commission, Corbyn confirmed that in 2018 all Labour MPs could face reselection as a result of boundary changes.
Labour members and supporters, it seems, don’t have long to wait before they can show Labour MPs what they think of the leadership coup and the part their MP may have played in it.
Corbyn addressed reselection in the Q&A session following his speech highlighting the first of the “five ills of 21st Century Britain” he intends to tackle if re-elected as the party’s leader in September. Noting that the 2020 general election may take place on revised constituency boundaries, the current Labour leader said:
There would be a full selection process in every constituency but the sitting MP… would have an opportunity to put their name forward.
So there will be a full and open selection process for every constituency Labour Party through the whole of the UK.
Essentially, Corbyn confirmed that reselection will happen as a result of any constituency boundary changes, and that current Labour MPs may have to fight for their position against other candidates in a “full selection process”. Just as Corbyn himself is doing right now in the Labour leadership contest.
Drawing the line
The boundary review was instigated by the Conservative government as a cost-cutting exercise, and launched in February of this year. Its main aim is to reduce the number of constituencies, and therefore MPs, from 650 to 600 by equalising the number of voters in each area. The new arrangement will then be put before parliament for approval in 2018.
The Conservative government’s motive for the changes is essentially to increase the amount of Tory constituencies, so they can try to garner a stronger majority in parliament in the 2020 general election. But this also means that MPs who sit in areas subject to the changes may face reselection as a result.
Labour MPs have long feared that the boundary changes would allow party members to express their views on an MP’s behaviour towards the party leader. And following the recent attempted coup against Corbyn by 172 MPs, those views have become increasingly strong.
The coup itself has not sat well with many members, as it’s seen as an attempt by MPs to remove the influence party members, and supporters, have over the leadership of the party. The suspicious suspension of certain constituency Labour parties (CLPs) who have expressed support for Corbyn has also received much criticism.
In fact, the general anti-democratic ways in which the Labour party has approached the leadership challenge have caused controversy, in both the party’s membership and the wider public. Measures have included cutting off new party members from voting, charging a whopping £25 to register as a supporter to vote, and rummaging through potential voters’ social media accounts in an attempt to find newly banned words so they can be stripped of their voting rights.
Despite this obvious attempt to diminish democracy within the party, MPs look set to hear the voice of Labour members whether they like it or not.
Fittingly, Corbyn’s first speech in his bid to retain the party’s leadership focused on equality. So in 2018, Labour MPs will have to endure the same level of scrutiny as the Labour leader is enduring right now. And their fate will be sealed, just as his will, at the hands of those they are meant to represent.
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