Labour MPs are highly concerned about the trigger ballots due to take place in the autumn, which could see dozens of them ousted from their seats in favour of Corbynite candidates at the next election. This would likely affect the parliamentary dynamics for the rest of this term, with Corbynsceptic Labour MPs even less likely to follow the party whip once triggered and/or deselected. Until the reselection decisions are made by local branches and affiliated organisations, MPs could be threatened with more or less opposition in their local parties ahead of key votes such as those that may occur after a successful vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Timing of the trigger votes is therefore crucial. This is under the overall control of the general secretary, Jennie Formby, who will liaise with regional directors to set timetables. LabourList understands that the trigger ballot process has started for frontbenchers, who have two very short timetable options both ending in September. But generally the process should take eight weeks: NEC rep meets CLP officers (week one); executive committee or general meeting draws up timetable (week two); notice of procedure (week three); party units and affiliated groups meet (weeks four to seven); deadline for return of ballot papers (week seven); count takes place and decision is received by region (week eight).
Reliable sources have told LabourList that there is a list drawn up by leadership allies of Labour MPs being targeted for deselection, and that this list includes frontbenchers such as Sharon Hodgson. But it does not take into account the likelihood of deselection in that local party: Hodgson’s local party secretary, for instance, has told LabourList that “the left wing of this CLP are supporting Sharon’s bid for re-endorsement” and the CLP chair has agreed.
Lucy Powell, who has been helpful to the leadership on Brexit but traditionally regarded as a Corbynsceptic, is also thought to be on the target list because national executive committee (NEC) member Yasmine Dar seat is supposedly interested in her Manchester seat.
Below is the full text of the trigger ballot FAQs sent to Labour MPs from the PLP Office at the end of July.
Who is eligible to vote?
All members who have been a member for 6 months by the Freeze Date.
What does it take to trigger an MP under the new rules?
CLPs will proceed to a selection should one third or more of Labour Party branches or one third or more of affiliated branches, who return their ballot, indicate they wish a selection to take place.
What defines a third?
For the purposes of the trigger, a third is rounded up to the nearest whole number.
A third of 9 branches is 3 branches, a third of 10 branches is 4 branches.
A third of 6 branches is 2 branches, a third of 7 branches is 3 branches.
What about branches that do not vote?
If a branch does not cast a vote, then it is not counted in the total number of branches for the purposes of the trigger process. The third of branches is calculated based only on the branches that do cast a vote.
How does it differ from the previous process?
The substantive change to the current process is that a full selection will be triggered if EITHER a third of party branches OR a third of affiliate branches request one.
What happens over August?
Most CLPs do not meet in August as many members are away, so triggers will not take place in this month.
What is a branch?
The Labour Party branches entitled to take part in the trigger ballot process are those in existence at the freeze date.
What is an affiliate branch?
The affiliated organisations entitled to return a ballot, will be those that were affiliated to the CLP as at 31 December of the previous year.
Do women’s forums get a vote in the trigger process?
No only Labour Party branches and affiliated organisation branches may vote in this process.
What is the timetable for triggers?
The timetable will be drawn up by the General Secretary in consultation with the Regional Director.
Who is in charge of when the process can start?
The CLP officers and an NEC rep are responsible for the smooth running of the trigger ballot. The General Secretary in consultation with the Regional Director will decide the timings. If you would like to discuss timing, please contact your Regional Director.
If I have any issues/questions who should I speak to?
Either your Regional Director or the Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit.
What happens to those who are suspended?
Suspended Labour MPs are not eligible to be triggered.
If a woman is deselected, will it automatically be AWS?
Yes, the party is committed to increasing Women’s representation in Parliament
If a sitting member is triggered will they automatically be on the shortlist for the selection?
How can I check if my membership list is up to date?
Your CLP secretary has access to an up to date membership list.
What is the freeze date?
The freeze date is the date when the NEC rep and CLP officers first meet. To participate in the selection, an individual must have been a member for 6 months by the Freeze Date.
Do affiliated supporters have a vote?
Only through their union branch if it is affiliated to the CLP.
Who monitors the CLP trigger process?
The regional office, the General Secretary’s office and the NEC.
Why have Labour launched the trigger process now?
In anticipation of an Autumn election the NEC has taken the decision to begin the Trigger Ballot process to ensure we are prepared to fight a General Election.
What role does the Chief Whip play in reselection?
The Chief Whip produces a Whip’s Report on each MP which is provided at each Trigger meeting.
What happens when an MP is on maternity leave?
There will be no trigger ballots held in CLPs when the MP is on maternity leave.
What if an MP has only recently been elected?
There will be no trigger ballots in CLPs where an MP has been elected in a by-election held since the last General Election.