Labour: Prospect of activists ousting moderate MPs raised amid warnings of a return to the 1980s

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson have reassured MPs that they oppose moves to make them face mandatory reselection meetings before the general election

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Indy Politics

The prospect of left-wing activists ousting moderate Labour MPs has been raised amid warnings that the “totally destructive” move would risk a return to the party’s internecine strife of the 1970s and 1980s.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy, Tom Watson, have reassured Labour MPs that they oppose moves to make them face mandatory reselection meetings before the general election in 2020.

The process gave constituency parties the right to select sitting MPs before each election and was used by activists to “purge” centrist MPs during the left-right battles which led to the formation of the breakaway SDP.

Mr Watson again stressed the new leadership team’s opposition to the tactic, but he conceded that the new leadership could not control the views of the Labour conference on the issue.

“We are both very much against mandatory re-selection but unfortunately that decision is made by our party conference,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, has said it is “for the party to decide” whether to return to mandatory reselection.

Michael Dugher, the shadow Culture Secretary, told The Sunday Times: “If you get into things like mandatory reselection you are heading down the Wacky Races road. We’ve played this game before and it doesn’t end well.

“Now is the time to be going after the Tories, not going after each other. It is totally destructive and it’s self-indulgent as well.”

At his first appearance as leader before the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr Corbyn reassured MPs that he opposed such moves. 

Despite his differences with Mr Corbyn on such issues as Trident renewal, Mr Watson insisted his leader had his full support and that any attempt to oust him was doomed to fail. “If MPs feel very strongly about that they could put an MP up, but I think that if they did Jeremy Corbyn would win hands down,” he said.

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