Jeremy Corbyn launched his Labour leadership campaign on Thursday morning — but the most significant thing the under-pressure leader said had nothing to do with his campaign or the policies that he announced.
It was about whether his critics would survive within the party if he retained his role as leader of Britain’s opposition.
At the press conference in central London which Business Insider attended, Corbyn effectively confirmed that every Labour MP could face deselection once the national constituency boundaries are redrawn in 2018.
Asked whether Labour MPs would face a reselection process in 2018, Corbyn said:
“If this parliament runs to full term, then the new boundaries will be the basis on which elections take place. In that case, there would be a full selection process in every constituency, but the sitting MP for any part or any substantial part of the new boundary would have an opportunity to put their name forward.”
This is huge. At least 180,000 people applied to join Labour in the 48-hour signing up window. The majority of these prospective new members are supporters of Corbyn, according to the Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh. Now, the party has over half a million members, the Labour leader told the press conference.
This all means, in theory, that the party membership could de-select moderate Labour MPs and replace them with candidates who support the left-wing leader. The pro-Corbyn faction of the party — propped up by the Momentum grassroots organisation — could take near-full control.
Corbyn’s comments will serve as a warning to Labour rebels who will face a clear choice between backing the socialist leader or the moderate Labour MP Owen Smith. Corbyn insisted that it is the “job, duty, and responsibility” of all Labour MPs to rally behind his leadership.
The Independent reported earlier this year how a number of high-profile Labour MPs who want Corbyn replaced face losing their seats in a “bloodbath” re-selection process — including the former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and former business secretary Chuka Umunna.
The Labour leader did offer a “hand of friendship” to the Labour MPs who backed a vote of no confidence against him last month, though, and praised the “talent” throughout the party ranks.
The Boundary Commission began work in February to make plans for a shake-up which will see the number of parliamentary constituencies cut from 650 to 600 in time for the 2020 general election.
The changes are likely to boost the Tories by giving them an extra 20 seats. If the proposed system had been used in last year’s general election, it would have produced a Conservative majority of 44 rather than 12, according to UK Polling Report research cited by the Independent.
Corbyn will do battle with Owen Smith to win the party’s second leadership contest in as many years. The result is set to be announced on September 24.
Read what else Corbyn said in his speech here.
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