How do you deselect a Tory MP?

What is the process for stopping a Conservative member of parliament from standing in the next general election?


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“Deselection” has in recent political history been associated with the Labour party.

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the fight between members and MPs for influence has created multiple headlines about the threat of deselections in local Labour parties – ie. allowing members to ditch their current MP and decide who they’d like to stand in the following election.

Labour members were eventually given a bit more power in the process of picking their candidates, but it’s turned out to be Conservative MPs who have more to fear.

Remain-minded Tory MPs Dominic Grieve and Phillip Lee have lost non-binding votes of no confidence by their local parties, called Conservative Associations, and ex-Tory MPs Anna Soubry, Nick Boles, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston also faced local deselection threats.

Now No 10 is warning that any Tory MP rebelling on an attempt to block no-deal in the Commons this week will have the whip withdrawn, and will be unable to stand again as a Tory candidate.

So how does it work?

You can find the whole process in the constitution, but I’ll break it down here:

Usually just a matter of formality, the incumbent Conservative MP must apply in writing to their local party’s executive council to be selected to run again in the next election. They can send this at any time during a parliament, but the executive can also request it.

Then the executive holds a secret ballot to vote on whether or not to choose the individual again.

If the MP loses this vote, they can request that the entire membership of the local party votes on whether or not to keep them. This is via a postal vote, and the MP can send a single piece of A4 to members making their case.

Alternatively, they can request their automatic addition to the list of potential candidates nominated by a local party panel called the candidate selection committee, which is then whittled down to two by the executive. These two are then put to a general meeting (which all local party members can attend) for the selection of the prospective parliamentary candidate.

These wouldn’t be options for MPs who’d lost the whip and were barred from standing, however. They’d have to stand separate from the party as independents if they still wanted to represent the constituency.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.