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Jeremy Corbyn announces opposition to mandatory reselection

In a move that will settle nerves in the parliamentary Labour party, the Labour leader has announced his opposition to measures that would make it easier to deselect Labour MPs. 

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Corbyn has declared his opposition to any changes to the Labour party rulebook to make it easier to deselect sitting MPs.

Announcing the appointment of Rosie Winterton, the Chief Whip, to head up the party’s response to the boundary review, the Labour leader said: “I wish to make it absolutely crystal clear that I do not support any changes to Labour’s rules to make it easier to deselect sitting Labour MPs.”

The statement will settle nerves among Labour MPs and will likely make Corbyn significantly more secure at the top of the party, and is an early victory for the “make it work” faction, the “soft right”. Corbyn’s opposition to changes means that there will, for the forseeable future, be an anti-deselection majority on the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC). 

Boundary changes – which will reduce the Commons to 600 MPs and make Labour’s task at the next election even more difficult – could still force a round of selection battles. However, the NEC, which is currently finely balanced between left and right, has the final vote on whether or not a seat has “materially changed”, either allowing the sitting MP to remain in place or opening up for a free-for-all.

It is now thought highly likely at Labour party headquarters that the next election will take place with a 600-member House of Commons. The Conservatives are planning to select on the basis of a shrunken House of Commons. The change to constituency sizes will further increase the cost of parliamentary selections for the Labour party, now Britain’s largest party by an overwhelming margin. 

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Corbyn’s opposition to reselection will reassure Labour MPs that he intends to continue on a collegiate path, likely increasing the pressure on recalcitrant MPs to behave in kind. 

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