Labour plan to outlaw deselection battles

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Indy Politics
Labour is facing an internal dispute over plans to prevent its most senior MPs from being forced into fighting messy, high-profile reselection battles if it gets into government.

The party's ruling body meets later this month to discuss a rule change which would demand a full-scale "no confidence" vote before a sitting MP could be challenged. The reform would mean that 50 per cent of local members would have to vote against the member before a full reselection battle could take place.

The move is to be proposed to prevent disgruntled left-wingers within the party from putting up challenges to Labour cabinet ministers in order to win publicity for their causes.

Other proposals in a draft package to be put before the party's National Executive Committee will include plans to draw up a central "approved" list of prospective candidates similar to the one already kept by the Conservatives.

Local and national forums might be given the right to decide who is given the go-ahead to seek selection in seats where an MP is retiring, though the national executive would retain the right to strike off anyone of whom it disapproves.

The proposals, drawn up by a special sub-committee, are due to be given final approval next June before being put to the party's annual conference in September.

They are bound to draw criticism from a number of the party's MPs, some of whom say they are unnecessarily draconian and divisive.

Ken Livingstone, MP for Brent East, has already spoken out against the plans to prevent sitting members from being removed from their seats. Few members were ever deselected under the old system, he said, and some of those were so hopelessly ineffective that they deserved to go.

Labour had discussed a similar idea 15 years ago and had decided not to go ahead with it, he added. "It's abysmally divisive. It means that instead of the present system, where if there is dissatisfaction people can express it, you have to turn it into a vote of no confidence," he said.

The only sitting Labour MP who has been deselected since the last election is David Young, the member for Bolton South East. He was successfully challenged in 1994 by Brian Iddon after 20 years in the constituency, facing complaints that at 64 he was too old and that he lacked local campaigning zeal.