The right of the Labour Party has been complaining since Corbyn became front-runner to be the next Labour leader that once installed, Corbyn would go about having any MP who doesn’t like him (i.e. almost all of them) deselected in order to make space for someone more, shall we say, malleable to the Corbyn plan. Jeremy himself has always denied this was on the cards; while I believe him when he says this, I don’t think others in his inner circle are quite so cuddly about the whole prospect (one person in particular whose name rhymes with Shmon ShmcDonnell springs to mind). So what’s the actual likelihood of Labour MPs who don’t toe the Corbyn line being replaced?
Let’s look at the bare facts. Ken Livingstone told the Sunday Politics just gone that he feels that Labour MPs who regularly defy the whip should have to face a reselection process. Two things to take from this: one, Ken is no longer a member of the PLP and is kind of yesterday’s news, so he shouldn’t be looked upon as a spokesperson for the Left. On the flipside, the second thing to take from the BBC pronouncement is that Ken is still a very visible political personality (thus appearances on the Sunday Politics as a case in point), and this is by far the strongest wording around reselection/deselection we’ve heard from anyone associated with Labour to date.
But the biggest reason Labour’s moderate MPs have to fear this as a real possibility is that if you look at the new boundaries, of the 206 MPs Labour have in England, only 36 of them would be unaffected enough by Labour’s own internal rules over such things to remain in post regardless. In other words, there will mass reselections in England anyway – and why would Momentum then fail to put forward a crop of candidates that better reflected their views in said seats? Such a move wouldn’t be aggressive in this circumstance – they’d be remiss in regards to their own mission statement if they failed to do so.
The reshaping of the PLP isn’t an academic exercise either. Corbyn only got onto the leadership ballot last time via sheer stupidity (as admitted to by several of the leading culprits themselves). That won’t happen again. So in order for the Left to remain holding the leadership of the Labour Party, they’d need to have a PLP much more favourable to them in order to get their candidate nominated. This is one reason why Corbyn must remain leader for the foreseeable future, perhaps even into the 2020 general election: the PLP must be in a shape favourable to getting the Left’s choice of candidate on the ticket, and they are nowhere close as it stands. If you want my opinion, they’ll do whatever they need to do to make it happen. The redrawing of the boundaries by the Tories will hurt Labour in more ways than one can imagine from the looks of things.