The Labour Party kick started its trigger ballot process – which gives local members the opportunity to either automatically reselect their MP or start a full selection process – in June, announcing that the votes would be taking place in the autumn.
Ahead of a likely early election, however, rumours started doing the rounds among Labour MPs that the trigger ballots would be called off. The case for doing so is that with potentially tricky and tight votes coming up, the leadership needs the parliamentary party to be focussed on the House of Commons rather than local factional battles. It would also show, some argue, that Labour is on an election footing.
The rumours turned out to be nothing but miscommunication, combined perhaps with wishful thinking. As reported by Kevin Schofield, Labour MPs have now been informed that trigger ballot processes are currently ongoing. According to one Corbynite member of Labour’s national executive committee, they “will continue for now until and ‘if’ a general election is called”.
The decision to suspend triggers would have to be taken by the ruling body, and the next full NEC meeting isn’t scheduled until September 17th – although there is talk of a possible emergency meeting next week.
If a snap election is called, all MPs who haven’t been through the trigger ballot process will be automatically reselected subject to NEC endorsement. This could give some MPs – those who are particularly vulnerable to deselection – pause for thought on the question of timing an early election.
The PLP is almost entirely united behind the idea that a November election would be far preferable to one held on October 15th, which is Boris Johnson’s favoured date. But Lucy Powell, for instance, has tweeted that there should be no delay to Labour’s approval for an election beyond passing the Benn Bill into law. Cynics say an October election would benefit any MP who wants to be automatically reselected before the trigger votes are completed in their seat.
In all vacant seats, where there is no sitting Labour MP and no parliamentary candidate selected, applications opened on Wednesday. They will close on Friday at 5pm after just 48 hours.