Isabel Hardman

How Labour’s left can push out centrist MPs without mandatory reselection

How Labour's left can push out centrist MPs without mandatory reselection
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A number of backroom staff in the Labour party have been in touch today to say goodbye ahead of an exodus of frontbenchers and staffers who disagree with Jeremy Corbyn. Most expect him to win the leadership contest, and know that their bosses won’t serve in his Shadow Cabinet, or suspect that they will struggle to last very long in an HQ under his leadership. The Sun reports a clear-out in the whips office.

Corbyn himself has been very careful to talk about the party coming back together, and has denied that he will bring back mandatory reselection of Labour MPs: something the Left deployed in the 1980s to threaten and remove those on the right of the party. But he doesn’t need to introduce any official reselection: this will happen anyway.

The Conservatives plan to redraw constituency boundaries and reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. They want to do this in 2018, but some Cabinet ministers suspect the vote could be earlier - which would also mean Corbyn could still be leader, rather than someone else after a coup. Either way, Labour MPs will be pitched against one another for selection in a smaller number of constituencies, and with an influx of new left-wing members into those constituency parties, will find themselves either being forced to adopt left-wing positions, or being beaten by other leftier MPs - or indeed brand new left wing candidates. And none of this will involve an official ‘purge’ from the top of the party.

It is important to remember that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the only left-wing force in the party. The make-up of the membership is just as important after this contest as during. Constituency parties choose candidates to stand for Parliament, and under Corbyn they will have greater power over policymaking, too. Given the right of the party failed in its plan to flood the party with centrist members who backed Liz Kendall, that faction has got a pretty big task on its hands to prevent the membership voting for very left-wing policies and very left-wing 2020 candidates.