McDonnell and Corbyn’s enforcer aim to kill off rumours of backbench deselections

Labour’s chief enforcer in the Commons has told MPs there is no deselection “hit list” following claims that up to 50 backbenchers could be targeted by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

Nick Brown, chief whip, rebuffed reports that left-wing activists were planning to try to oust dozens of MPs who had rebelled over policy or spoken out over campaigning issues since 2015.

Brown’s intervention, delivered at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) came after John McDonnell told a regional daily paper: “No one is in a deselection in the Labour party”.

Last night Labour MPs questioned Brown following a Sunday Times story which claimed that senior MPs such as Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, and Chris Leslie, the former shadow chancellor, had been told not to “rock the boat” because they featured on a “hit list”.

“I do buy the paper” Brown said. “But I only read the Culture section. I throw the rest away, as it is nonsense,” the Huffington Post reported.

Brown also jokingly asked if he should draw up such a list but his comment sparked anger with Leslie saying: “I don’t think this is a laughing matter”.

The Nottingham East MP has faced significant amounts of abuse on social media with some activists refusing to accept his right to speak out on Brexit, the economy and Labour’s electoral tactics.

The PLP meeting followed a visit by McDonnell to Liverpool. The shadow chancellor was born in the city where prominent former frontbenchers, such as Angela Eagle and Luciana Berger, have faced threats they will be ousted before the next general election, due in 2022.

“No one is in a deselection in the Labour party. People have come together after a fantastic election result,” McDonnell told the Liverpool Echo.

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