Graham Stringer, a career Labour backbencher who represents Blackley and Broughton in Greater Manchester, now faces a deselection process in his constituency. Enough members in his CLP are annoyed with Stringer for having sided with the government in a series of votes on Brexit. He joins fellow Eurosceptic Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Frank Field in genuine deselection proceedings being started against him.
The threat of deselecting MPs has been in the air since Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. Yet having the whole thing start with the three MPs that it has done is rife with massive problems for Labour – and Stringer’s very possible deselection in particular.
The inspiration behind deselection mania was that the party needed to be purged of the “Blairites”, i.e. anyone on the right or centre of the party who would resist the extremes of Corbyn’s agenda. Whatever one’s political sympathies, this at least made political sense: if Corbyn were to become prime minister, how would he govern with a PLP that was mostly against him on every issue? Wanting to create a PLP in the leader’s image at least made coherent sense.
Fitting Stringer’s deselection proceedings into this reasoning suddenly makes a tremendous mockery of it all. Stringer is definitive from the left of the party; his Euroscepticism stems from the old Bennite belief that the EU is a capitalist construct and that true socialism would be impossible for any member state, thus the UK needs to leave. While he supported Yvette Cooper in the leadership race in 2015, this was more down to his fears that the party would fracture under the leadership of a man who had defied the party whip over 50o times (something he has been proven correct about). He is not a Blairite by any stretch of the imagination.
What I’m getting at here is if the deselection witch hunt is going to start with the likes of people like Stringer, it has the potential to destroy the Labour Party completely, and fairly quickly. If you want to start the deselection wheel rolling with Euroscepticism as the main issue, you are going to get into big problems immediately. What about deselecting Dennis Skinner? He’s voted with the government on Brexit. Or hey, while we’re here, what about Corbyn himself? He’s a long time Eurosceptic who has been an active player in taking the UK out of the EU since the referendum result.
What about all the members of the PLP who voted to trigger Article 50? That’s most of the parliamentary party there. In fact, if you take the names of the Labour MPs who didn’t vote to trigger Article 50, you end up, not coincidentally, with mostly the “Blairites”: Ben Bradshaw, Stella Creasy, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes. So, is the idea to deselect all Labour MPs who have voted with the government on Brexit as well as every MP judged to be a Blairite? Because, as some of you may have already figured out, that means you have to deselect every single Labour MP. Including, to repeat, Corbyn himself.