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14 October 2015

Ken Livingstone calls for Labour leadership rules to be changed

Corbyn ally and former London mayor says MPs should be able to stand with just two nominations. 

By George Eaton

It was with just two minutes to spare that Jeremy Corbyn secured the 35 MP nominations he needed to stand for the Labour leadership. He did so only with the aid of colleagues who had no intention of voting for him in the contest and who believed he would lose. After his victory, many of those MPs vowed never again to allow a left-winger on to the ballot. 

It is to remedy this problem that some Corbyn supporters are now arguing that Labour’s leadership rules should be changed. In my column in tomorrow’s NS, I speak to Ken Livingstone who tells me the the current nominations threshold should be abolished. “Up until 1989, under Kinnock, you could stand for the leadership if you were nominated and seconded by two MPs. I think we should go back to that.”

Livingstone added that were MPs to trigger a leadership contest against Corbyn, he would be “elected by an even bigger margin”. He said: “It’s going to be very difficult for them, with Jeremy having been elected so overwhelmingly. If they trigger another leadership ballot, Jeremy will be elected by an even bigger margin. MPs can’t remove the leader.”

The former London mayor, whose previous aides Simon Fletcher and Neale Coleman serve as Corbyn’s chief of staff and director of policy respectively, added: “Part of the problem is the four elections under Blair and Brown. Labour parties weren’t allowed to select the candidates they wanted, they had to choose from an approved list, which shifted the Parliamentary Labour Party massively to the right.” He praised Ed Miliband for “abolishing the Blairite pre-vetting rule” and said “parties are now free to select the candidate they want”. He added that “If we’re going to have a Corbyn government we’re going to make huge gains that will bring in a much more balanced PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party].”

Corbyn has not suggested changing Labour’s leadership rules. But were he to do so it would help ensure that a left-wing successor could not be kept off the ballot by MPs. With the party having nearly doubled in size since the election to 370,658, any Corbyn-endorsed candidate would be in a strong position to win. 

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