The SKWAWKBOX has long advocated that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should ‘withdraw the whip’ from deputy leader Tom ‘Project Anaconda’ Watson as a means of forcing a new election for the deputy leader position – and ideally one or two of the ‘worst of the rest’, to show strength and set an example to the rest of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party).
Here’s what the Parliament website says about withdrawal of the ‘whip’:
[If the whip is withdrawn from an MP, this] means that the Member is effectively expelled from their party (but keeps their seat) and must sit as an independent until the whip is restored.
The deputy leader has an automatic right to sit on Labour’s NEC (National Executive Council) and, as a Corbyn-supporting candidate would definitely win by a landslide, this would help tip the balance on the NEC in favour of the vision and direction supported by the vast majority of members. Even more so if the unlawfully-appointed two additional NEC members are removed as they must be.
The resignation today of one of the worst right-wing Labour MPs, Jamie Reed, brings this into even sharper focus. The NEC has a huge amount of influence over which candidates are shortlisted for an election or by-election and it’s essential that a genuinely progressive – and preferably local – candidate contest the Copeland seat.
The question has been asked more than once by readers of this blog whether Corbyn has the power to do this and, if so, how. Here is the answer.
The ‘Working for an MP‘ website is an official resource for the staff of MPs of any party. It was set up with EU funds and is paid for by the Human Resources department of the House of Commons. In its guide on ‘Whips and their Work’, it says this (emphasis mine):
5. Withdrawal and resignation of the whip
Most MPs, most of the time, pose no trouble for their party’s whips. However, issues of discipline arise from time to time, on a scale from an individual MP’s doubts over a prickly issue to a large scale revolt among backbenchers. At the extreme end of the scale, when an MP disagrees with the action of his or her party, he or she may ‘resign’ the whip – in other words, leave the parliamentary party and be no longer subject to its rules. Similarly, if an MP elicits extreme disapproval of their party’s leadership, the party leader may ‘withdraw’ the whip, expelling the MP. In both cases, the MPs remain in post but become effectively independent, no longer expected to follow the whip. Aside from rebellion, personal actions or comment may cause an MP to resign the whip or have it withdrawn. The decision to go to war in Iraq generated a number of such political casualties, with Clare Short and Robin Cook both resigning the whip in protest and with George Galloway having the whip withdrawn after making comments to the press deemed to have brought the party into disrepute. .More recently, former minister Denis McShane had the Labour whip withdrawn following a referral from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to the police. Another punishment the party leadership might use is to temporarily suspend a disobedient MP, possibly in advance of a full expulsion.
So it’s on record that it is the right of the party leader to withdraw the whip – no approval or endorsement from the NEC or other party body is required. There is also precedent – the right has been exercised before, as shown in the example given.
This puts the issue of ability beyond doubt. This blog believes that such a move is not only necessary but would also have a huge positive impact on the public/media perception of Jeremy Corbyn’s undoubted strength and resolve, as well as on the morale of Corbyn’s supporters – with the not-insignificant side-benefit of allowing Corbyn to dictate the news agenda and put his agenda-driven critics on the back foot.
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