Sunday, 22 January 2017

Which Labour MPs could depart next in protest against Jeremy Corbyn?

The two parliamentary by-elections of Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central are now set to take place as early as 23rd February, just five weeks from now. I am certain the attention both have been receiving in the media will attract many by-election hopefuls (although Stoke-on-Trent Central, being inner-city, will undoubtedly attract more candidates).

One local by-election took place this week in the Norton ward of Bromsgrove DC, on the same subject, and this was the result:

Bromsgrove DC, Norton: Conservative 219 (43.2%, -16.6%), Labour 182 (36.7%, +7,1%), UKIP 82 (16.6%), Green 20 (3.9%, -6.6%).

Labour came surprisingly close, a point exacerbated by the low turnout of ~15% and the lack of a Liberal Democrat candidate. This should have helped the Green Party but sadly it did not, as our vote share dropped by more than half even though UKIP was the only party in this by-election that had not stood last time and Norton is a safely Conservative ward covering a village near Bromsgrove town itself.

There have been suggestions that the exodus of non-Corbynite (I.e. not left-wing) Labour Party MPs will continue after the departures of Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt. Ostensibly they were both after more lucrative non-political jobs, but they also wanted to get away from Jeremy Corbyn's influence and (in their mind) his dragging down of the Labour Party. Which Labour MPs are likely to follow? Here is my list of the five 'Blairite' Labour MPs most likely to resign their seats in the next few years as a consequence:

1. Rachel Reeves (Leeds West). Rachel has always been on the right of the Labour Party, and her support of Conservative welfare cuts back during the Con-Dems' tenure was a clear marker of that. Her seat is also set for abolition during the next round of boundary changes, meaning her parliamentary career could be cut short anyway.

2. Owen Smith (Pontypridd): Owen showed how useless a leader he would be when his challenge to Jeremy Corbyn last year failed spectacularly, and before he entered Parliament he was a corporate consultant for drugs giant Pfizer. Given his lack of a political future and his maintenance of connections to lobbyists it is conceivable that he could leave Parliament early, particularly as he will likely find himself without a seat to contest if the next round of boundary changes are pushed through.

3. Liz Kendall (Leicester West) Liz failed badly in her bid for Labour leader, and resigned from the Shadow Cabinet as soon as Jeremy took office as Leader of the Opposition. She is one of the most active Blairites remaining in Labour and supports many things Jeremy Corbyn supporters never would-like supporting free schools and the benefit cap.

4. Chuka Umunna (Streatham): Chuka has been rather critical of the Labour left, and like Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt he is relatively young (38 years of age). He has shown himself to be pro-business on several occasions (e.g. his criticism of Andy Burnham's report of 2014 calling for the restrictions of the sale of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food for health reasons), and before he aborted his bid for Labour leader, called for Labour to target 'Conservatives and middle-class voters' just as Blair did.

5. Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Angela has been a loyal member of the 'Labour right' from the beginning of her Parliamentary career and has never strayed, to the point where she announced a leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn (but later pulled out). She has also been a minister and shadow minister before 2016, but it seems she is unlikely to return to the frontbenches.

Of course, there is a chance that this 'exodus' will not happen after all, and that other MPs from the 'Labour right' which I have not listed here may resign for similar reasons.

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