Jeremy Corbyn accused of ‘purge’ as Labour votes rebel MPs off Commons committee

Kate Proctor

Jeremy Corbyn was today accused of a “purge” after ordering Labour MPs to vote two former colleagues off a powerful Commons committee.

Ex-Labour MPs Ian Austin and Mike Gapes were both axed from the foreign affairs select committee last night and will be replaced by Labour MPs.

Members of newly-formed The Independent Group called it a “day of shame” and a “vindictive and intolerant” move by Mr Corbyn.

Mr Gapes, who had sat on the committee for the past 14 years before joining the TIG, tweeted: “Despite the unanimous support of my @CommonsForeign colleagues I have been purged by a vote of the House 199-134. This is a sad day for the independence of select committees.”

Mr Austin, who quit the party over its handling of anti-Semitism and now sits as an independent MP — but is not part of the TIG — said: “I don’t think Labour MPs will look back with pride on voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s vindictive motion to kick me off because I stood up to racism.”

Thirteen Labour MPs rebelled against the party’s three-line whip to vote the two men off the committee, including Dame Margaret Hodge, an outspoken critic of Mr Corbyn.

Dozens more abstained in a stark sign of the unpopularity of Labour’s decision to hold a vote to remove them.

Backbenchers were said to be incensed that Labour was spending time trying to remove “hard-working” and “knowledgeable” members of select committees.

Mr Corbyn did not take part in the vote himself because he was having meetings about Brexit. Deputy leader Tom Watson also had permission to be absent.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Select committee and delegation places are allocated on the basis of the general size of parties at the General Election. It shouldn’t need saying but it’s entirely right and legitimate for Labour to fill our allocation — as every party does — to represent our voters in Parliament.”

Dr Sarah Wollaston, who quit the Tories to join The Independent Group, tweeted: “MPs are not on cross-party select committees to be a Labour or a Tory mouthpiece subject to the diktats of their whips but to listen impartially to the evidence & work collaboratively on behalf of the public.”

Joan Ryan, former Labour MP for Enfield and now part of the TIG, tweeted: “A day of shame for parliament especially for @UKLabour voting to remove @MikeGapes & @IanAustinMP from @ CommonsForeign in a vindictive act of intolerance #BrokenPolitics.”

It emerged today that there were also moves to replace Luciana Berger, the Wavertree MP who quit Labour to join The Independent Group, on the health select committee — a position she has held since 2016.

An internal party document seen by the MP shows the party advertising a vacancy on the committee, the day before her baby son was born. She said no-one from Labour had come forward offering to replace her.