Exclusive: Suspended Labour MP messages members about reselection

Katie Neame
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

Suspended Labour MP Neil Coyle has allegedly been sending text messages to members of his Constituency Labour Party (CLP) asking whether they will be backing his reselection, LabourList can reveal.

The MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark had the Labour whip suspended, as well as his membership administratively suspended, after politics reporter Henry Dyer revealed the MP made racist remarks towards the journalist earlier this year.

But in SMS messages sent this week, seen by LabourList, a local Labour Party member appears to be told by Coyle: “If you will be backing my reselection for BOS [Bermondsey and Old Southwark] pls reply Y to this msg.”

In a second message, the recipient is reminded to vote in the national executive committee (NEC) elections, the ballot for which opened on Wednesday. It stated: “Pls don’t forget to use your votes for NEC candidates. I’m backing these to help continue building Labour support,” followed by a link.

The message continued: “To back my own reselection campaign for BOS pls reply Y to this msg.” The text followed a previous message on May 4th, reminding the recipient about the local elections the following day.

Both messages followed texts earlier in the year relating to local party campaigning and other matters. LabourList understands that Coyle remains suspended and local members have raised concerns that the MP may be breaching party rules by accessing Labour Party data while still suspended.

LabourList understands that, while suspended members may not access party systems, some may legitimately hold contact information of party members outside of party systems.

“Since Neil Coyle was suspended in February, members in [Bermondsey and Old Southwark] have been left completely in the dark,” one local member told LabourList.

“This is the first we have heard of any reselection process, and as far as members are aware, Coyle would not be the Labour Party’s candidate in any future election. This is all deeply confusing and leaves dedicated campaigning members without any answers.

“Members and residents deserve the best possible Labour candidate, and that is not someone who has fallen far short of the Labour values we all hold dear. The Labour Party should be honest and clear about what happens next, and allow members the voice and choice they deserve.”

Coyle had the Labour whip and his membership suspended after he told Dyer that he could tell that the reporter was British-Chinese “from how you look like you’ve been giving renminbi [the Chinese currency] to Barry Gardiner” on February 1st.

They had been discussing the then recent news that Gardiner, the Labour MP, had received funds from a suspected Chinese spy. According to Dyer, Coyle said Gardiner was being paid by “Fu Manchu”, a fictional Chinese supervillain character.

Coyle did not deny making the comments. After the news of his whip suspension, the MP said: “I’m very sorry for my insensitive comments, have apologised to everyone involved and will be cooperating fully with the investigation.”

A party spokesperson said at the time: “The Labour Party expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously. Accordingly, the chief whip has now suspended the Labour whip from Neil Coyle pending an investigation.”

Dyer said he informed Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons Speaker, and “immediate action” was taken to suspend Coyle from the bars on the parliamentary estate pending an investigation by the Labour whips’ office.

Coyle contacted Dyer and “offered his apologies for his inappropriate actions”, according to the journalist. “He reiterated that he will be complying with the Labour Party’s investigation,” Dyer said.

Neil Coyle MP’s office and the Labour Party have been contacted for comment.

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