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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Labour civil war continues

Anybody who thinks that things have quieted down within the Labour Party following Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson's apparent rapprochement will have been rapidly disabused of that thought yesterday when Ken Livingstone went on the offensive.

Ken Livingstone is a close ally of the Labour Leader, though there was no indication that his call for a purge of anti-Corbyn elements had the official endorsement of the Islington North MP. Nevertheless, there is always the thought at the back of one's mind that Livingstone's role is to say the unspeakable on behalf of the leader in a way that is easily deniable if necessary.

According to the Guardian, the former London mayor has demanded the suspension of top Labour MPs he claims are “consciously undermining” Jeremy Corbyn.

The paper says that with tensions in the party already strained over Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Livingstone named top backbenchers Chuka Umunna and Wes Streeting as those he said were damaging the party.

He also called for the reintroduction of automatic re-selection of MPs, reviving the prospect that figures from the centrist wing of the party could be removed by grassroots Corbyn supporters:

Mr Livingstone, himself currently suspended from the party over allegedly anti-Semitic statements, said: “Those that have been most over the top I think should be suspended.

“I think the other thing that Jeremy should do is re-introduce automatic re-selection. It's really ridiculous that MPs in safe seats have a job for life. I'm particularly talking about Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting - basically it's the same group of MPs who were screaming that I'd said Hitler was a Zionist and I was anti-Semitic.

“The moment that issue went on hold, they were then blaming Jeremy for Britain voting to leave (the EU). Just endless criticism. It's only about a dozen of them. The simple fact is they are consciously undermining Jeremy and damaging the Labour Party.”

Talk of automatic reselection will of course set alarm bells ringing for many MPs and feed into the paranoia triggered by Deputy Leader Tom Watson's claim a few days ago of a left wing takeover. No wonder so many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are so unhappy.
Might be worth remembering how Livingstone first came to power in London and threw out the moderate Labour leadership. His supporters ensured that left candidates were selected in a significant number of the Tory marginals. Swing to Labour resulted in a proportionately higher number of left wing Labour councillors and Livingstone became leader. Labour leader that won the election was replaced within days of winning the election. Will be interesting to see who is selected in the current Labour Tory marginal that are currently held by the Tories.
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