THESE pages have seized up over the last fortnight – we all gotta have a summer holiday (back Monday) – but tonight’s leadership nomination vote of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in Holborn and St Pancras is too intriguing not to take a break from the shell collecting. Will they choose to stick with Jeremy Corbyn, or back Owen Smith? Like Hampstead and Kilburn, there are more than 2,000 members entitled to a vote and nominations in hearty, safe Labour seats are by nature seen as more significant than in constituencies where the Conservatives are in charge. So even though attendance at St Pancras Church is unlikely to hit hit four figures, the victors will declare tonight’s result as reflective of where Corbyn’s support is now, steadfast or on the wane.
Unlike Tulip Siddiq in the north of the borough, the constituency MP, Keir Starmer, who has generally proved a popular successor to Frank Dobson since his general election win last May, might find it a little awkward if the membership sides with Corbyn. While Tulip has been wary about picking sides – celebrated as a peacemaker by some, derided as a fudgemaker by others – Keir was among the MPs who resigned during the walkout of Corbyn’s Westminster team which led to this contest.
So before tonight’s meeting, he has teamed up with Camden Council leader Sarah Hayward, who had initially supported Angela Eagle and her “barnstorming” bid to be leader as she called for Labour to finally pick a woman as its leader, to appeal to members to now vote for Smith.
In a mailout from a new ‘Keir and Sarah’ email address, the pair, once rivals in the Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary selection contest, tell members: “Owen Smith offers a radical vision coupled with an ability to deliver. He is far better placed to take on Teresa May’s Tories and to deliver the alternative the country so desperately needs.Our principles are important to us. They are what drive us all forward in our passion for Labour politics. But our principles tell us we must push for power; the alternative is never ending Tory rule.”
So I’m not accused of only showing some of it, you can see the full email with all of their thoughts HERE. The CLP voted against sending a vote of confidence to Corbyn last month, but on that occasion it was a ballot of branch delegates. This time, its a membership decision.
Surprise, surprise, there has been a mixed response from local Labour members to the mail. One supportive councillor said this morning: “When you think about the innuendo that faces anybody who dares speak out against Jeremy Corbyn – anybody who dares question what has fast become a cult – then Keir and Sarah are being incredibly brave here. Keir obviously won’t be deselected and Sarah doesn’t really have to watch her back in her King’s Cross ward, but there are other people who agree with them but feel they will be threatened with deselection, however hard they work as councillors, if they say too loudly that they would like something other than the shambles we have seen under Corbyn.”
But while more than 20 Camden councillors have said they want a change, there is a determined group of Corbyn supporters who insist he is being challenged less than a year after becoming leader, without being given a fair chance.
“Members will see someone who backed Liz Kendall and an MP who walked from the shadow cabinet lining up against Jeremy,” said one Labour councillor last night. “Again the managerial class of the Labour Party show themselves to be out of touch with members. They may be in positions of power but would be better of using those platforms to stand with Corbyn and to fight the Tories. Local members may well choose to send them a message and back Corbyn as our leader. They would be right to do so.”
We shall see later.