Kate Hoey, the famously Eurosceptic Labour MP for Vauxhall, has said she is “quite relaxed” about moves to deselect her after she voted with the government over Brexit. But many local activists believe she is on her way out, and the “moderates” among them fear a Corbynite successor being foisted on them from above. How could that happen in a party where the will of local members is now meant to be sovereign?
The theory goes that should Hoey lose a “trigger ballot” following a recent, unanimous, no confidence vote by constituency members, Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) would intervene to make it more likely that a Full Jeremy candidate would fight the seat at the next general election. The possibility excites Momentumites across Lambeth, who sees the borough, including its Labour council, as a citadel of Progress, Blairism and so on that needs dismantling. Even though plenty of them campaigned for Hoey at last year’s general election, they wouldn’t mind replacing her with one their own.
One way the NEC could help this happen would be to set requirements for the make-up of the shortlist, as happened recently in another safe London Labour seat, Lewisham East. In that case, the NEC insisted on it being composed entirely of black and minority ethnic (BAME) women, though pressure from the local party seems to have helped ensure that two experienced local councillors it reckoned were up to job were included. In the end, one of those, Janet Daby, got the job, defeating a pair of ardent Corbynites.
Might a similar sort of story have a different sort of ending in Vauxhall? Constituency “moderates” theorise that Corbyn Central would love Hoey to be replaced by Katy Clark, a former MP (in Scotland) and a close Corbyn aide, who lives in the constituency (in Prince’s ward). Laura Parker, Momentum’s national co-ordinator who was a Corbyn aide until last September and also resides in Vauxhall (Clapham Town ward), is thought a likely favoured contender too.
Might an all-female shortlist be demanded from on high, thus ensuring that one or both of these prominent pro-Corbyn figures gets in the frame? Were that the motivation, it couldn’t be another all BAME as well as all female shortlist though, because both Clark and Parker are white. The fact that Clark is currently leading Labour’s internal “democracy review” adds further twist to the speculation. Could that inhibit her from seeking the nomination? But even if it did, the moderates would need someone on the shortlist who could carry a majority of members in a CLP where no faction is dominant. Who would that person be?
Throw into the mix the fact that “moderate” Remainers in Vauxhall have long been as narked with Hoey over her prominent Leave campaigning as their Momentumite counterparts are over her voting with the Tories, and you have the weird state affairs where a sort of unifying horror at her hanging off the end of a boat with Nigel Farage could be followed by a ferocious faction fight over who succeeds her. That fight could end with the moderates getting shot of an MP they are fed up with, only for her to be replaced by another they are at odds with every bit as much for different reasons – and whom Momentum folk are overjoyed with.
Bear in mind that Hoey has not yet been triggered and might not be, depending on whether such a ballot actually happens and how the different local factions decide to line up if it does. There’s even talk of Hoey simply choosing to stand down, either because she’s had enough – she’s 72 years old – or, seeing the writing on the wall, in order to contest the next election as an independent. The Hoey situation is an odd one in many ways, and there are good arguments for not leaping to broader conclusions on the strength of it. But if she is to be removed as MP for Vauxhall, the capital could once again host a significant battle in the war for the Labour Party’s soul – and all over a Brexiteer in the city’s most pro-Remain borough.
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