Sarah Jones and Steve Reed OBE have been given a fortnight to decide whether they want to be a parliamentary candidate at the next election and to inform Labour, as the party led by Jeremy Corbyn gets itself ready to fight a General Election.
Labour’s national executive committee – the NEC – met and agreed the process for reselection on Monday, with the party’s MPs receiving an email confirming that the first stage – collating their intentions – was underway. They were given a deadline of July 8 for returning the form.
Both Reed, the MP for Croydon North, and Jones, who represents Croydon Central, are expected to want to stand again. In the case of Reed, this could be where it gets interesting.
The editor of the Labour List website, Sienna Rodgers, detailed the reasoning behind the need for sitting MPs to make a quick decision on their intentions. “Several MPs were incensed by the short timeframe, as they are usually given two or three months’ notice,” she wrote.
“There is apparently concern that it could affect the chances of forcing an early election through a vote of no confidence, as deselected MPs would have less incentive to support such a move.”
In order for an election to take place on October 24, before the Brexit deadline, the Commons must hold a no-confidence vote no later than September 3 – the first day back from summer recess. Rodgers wrote: “Local meetings are not held in August, nor usually in September due to conference. This is a highly formal process, and CLP executives (some with meetings before July 8) will have to negotiate the timetable and other details with region beforehand. All of this means that the next stages of the process will only really kick off in October.”
Which could make the next couple of weeks in the Croydon North constituency Labour Party worth watching.
Reed, the former leader of Lambeth Council was selected to stand for parliament in Croydon North in 2012. He has since then swerved any re-selection process.
But since the election as party leader of Jeremy Corbyn, and the arrival of Momentum, his position has come in for close scrutiny from many members in the constituency. Reed is the sometime vice-chair of Progress, the Blairite party-within-the-party, and he was one of the instigators of the notorious, and failed, “chicken coup” against Corbyn’s leadership in 2016.
Unlike some of the coup plotters, Reed appears to be back in the Labour leadership’s good books, and this week he was celebrating a sideways move within the parliamentary team at Westminster.
It will take one-third of Croydon North’s CLP’s branches or affiliates to indicate that they want a selection to take place. With Brexit looming, and a Tory government under Boris Johnson a matter of weeks away, it may be that there is no appetite within the CLP membership to force out Reed as their parliamentary candidate at this stage.
As Rodgers says: “This will… offer insight into the effectiveness of preparation methods employed by MPs who have been worried about deselection. Some have split up branches into single-ward ones or signed up supportive affiliates. Others have simply made sure that they attend meetings and engage in good faith with all local members.
“How serious is the threat of deselection? We should bear in mind that many of the MPs with cause for concern left the party earlier this year. Others will retire. As for the rest, remember: being triggered doesn’t actually mean being deselected.
“The argument will be made that full selections should be held on principle, not due to the political persuasions of the sitting MP – particularly when it comes to those who were imposed by the NEC in 2017. But the outcome of the selection itself is not predetermined. Unexpected factors may also influence the result: there are suggestions, for instance, that Vicky Foxcroft in Lewisham Deptford has been given a helping hand by the leader’s office with a new promotion.
“The votes to automatically reselect Greater London Authority members have been revealing. There was much anxiety in City Hall, yet ultimately all sitting AMs were successful in the CLPs section because only a handful of local parties tried to trigger an open contest. And that’s in London, where you would expect (other than Liverpool) that activists to be most likely to opt for full selections.
“To the disappointment of some activists on the Labour left, it seems fair to conclude that sitting MPs will need to put the work in but don’t have reason to be too despondent.”
Reed even had a part to play in that “helping hand by the leader’s office with a new promotion” for Foxcroft. Reed was this week moved on to shadow minister for children, from being the shadow civil society minister, freeing up the position for Foxcroft to be promoted into.
Meanwhile, across the borough and constituency boundary in Streatham – the seat which Reed always believed he was entitled to be selected for – there is speculation that Chuka Umunna, having been a member of three political parties inside six months, might now do a bunk across south London and stand for the LibDems in Richmond, where Tory Zac Goldsmith has only a very slim majority. Such selfless opportunism could see Umunna cling on to his MP status.
Following Umunna’s defection, Labour in Streatham will, of course, be seeking a new candidate for the seat. That may attract interest from one or two Croydon Labour councillors.
Also in need of a candidate is Labour in Croydon South, where the past couple of parliamentary hopefuls, The Hon Emily Benn and her fiddle in 2015 and Jennifer Brathwaite in 2017, did little to dent Chris Philp’s substantial Tory majority.
The manner in which Brathwaite, a former colleague of Reed’s at Lambeth Council, was imposed on the CLP by the party centrally has been a cause of some resentment among local members, and Inside Croydon understands that the Corbynistas of Coulsdon, Purley and Sanderstead got together last week to do something about it and choose their preferred candidate.
Three current Labour councillors were expected at the meeting. One was a no-show, and another was rejected for being too close to the council’s Blairite leadership.
Intriguingly, Croydon South Momentum has since been tight-lipped over which councillor is to get their seal of approval when it comes to candidate selection.
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