Emma Lewell-Buck has become the latest Labour MP to be ‘triggered’ by party members in South Shields wanting to hold a full selection contest rather than automatically reselect their current representative as a parliamentary candidate.
But the result is possibly the most controversial yet, and is likely to be challenged. It was produced because a party branch – the one that saw the threshold for ‘triggering’ met – had its trigger ballot rerun following a tie, and a single vote made the difference.
It has been claimed that a councillor who opposes Lewell-Buck “helped” an elderly member complete their ballot paper in the second round of votes, which then generated a result in favour – by a majority of one – of triggering the sitting MP.
“It’s the usual behaviour we’ve come to expect in our CLP,” one local source told LabourList.
South Shields Labour consists of ten branches. Of those five that have voted so far, one opted to reselect, three to trigger, and another branch (Whitburn and Marsden) on Monday night offered a draw – but after the vote was rerun it turned into one in favour of triggering.
Trigger ballot guidelines state: “In the event of a tie the ballot will be retaken. Should a further tie result, the branch will not express a preference for or against reselection.”
Several local sources note that Lewell-Buck’s detractors have been campaigning hard against her reselection and have stood directly outside of meeting venues to apply pressure accordingly.
A Labour source said: “This move has come from the right in the CLP, not the left. Triggers are about democracy and many members wish to hold selections so they can have a say in who represents them.”
But the political divide in the CLP is not thought to run especially along traditional factional lines, instead being more particular to the politics of the local area in South Tyneside.
Lewell-Buck, the MP for South Shields, has experienced long-standing issues with a number of activists in the CLP, particularly members of the current executive committee. She has previously complained to the party of bullying by local councillors.
Allegations of bullying as well as vote-rigging led to the CLP being suspended three years ago, then put in special measures. Although these measures have been lifted, due to the history and ongoing tensions a regional board rep was appointed to oversee every branch meeting conducting a trigger ballot vote.
Update, 8th October: LabourList understands that the rep was present at the meeting on Monday evening and did not find fault with the way that the rerun vote was conducted.
Commenting on the latest ‘triggering’, a Labour spokesperson said: “Under longstanding party rules, reselection processes have to be held in between general elections. This has happened before every general election since 2001, apart from the 2017 snap election.
“These are taking place in every Labour-held constituency across the country and in any reselection the sitting MP is automatically on the ballot paper.”