Election deadline sparks fear moderates could be 'purged' from Labour

Kate Proctor

Fears that moderate Labour MPs could be “purged” by Jeremy Corbyn supporters rose today with a former minister announcing that he will not be standing for re-election.

The party’s HQ sparked major concerns among its MPs last night when it gave them just two weeks to decide whether they want to stand again at the next general election.

It immediately sparked claims that Left-wing local party members would organise trigger ballots to replace moderate MPs within a matter of weeks, The surprise move today prompted former minister Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, to reveal that he will be standing down. He has represented the area since 1997.

He told the Standard today: “I don’t think it’s a secret I’m not a huge fan of the leadership and I think they would be quite happy to see the back of me. I’ve done 23 years in the London Fire Brigade and 22 years as an MP. It’s a very intense constituency, very demanding and there’s lots of great stuff to be done and time to pass it on to another person.”

However, he warned against the party’s National Executive Committee parachuting a candidate into the seat — and said disgruntled de-selected MPs could cause serious problems for Mr Corbyn.

He added: “This two-week deadline has taken a lot of people by surprise. In one sense it gives clarity and on the other hand if there are de-selections of moderate MPs and there isn’t a General Election until 2022, they have got people on the Labour backbenches for the foreseeable future who are going to be even more unhappy.”

He believes they could form a powerful voting bloc alongside the five Change UK MPs and those ex-Labour and Tory members currently standing as independents. Labour MP Wes Streeting, who said he will be running to be the candidate again in Ilford North, believes the party is “rightly” trying to put itself on a general election footing.

He said: “The party quite rightly wants to be ready for a snap general election. The challenge is, however, that for someone like me the decision to stand as the candidate again is very easy but for those nearing retirement or who have families this will be much more agonising.

“A two-week deadline will be very difficult for colleagues to weigh this up. I do wonder if some flexibility can be shown to some colleagues who need a bit more time to decide.”

One Labour MP said: “Many MPs will see this as a purge process.”

The flashpoints are expected to be in Hove, Vauxhall in London and seats in Merseyside where local parties have high numbers of Left-wing members.