Suspended MPs a headache for party as Coyle returns as a member

Morgan Jones
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Last week the parliamentary watchdog recommended that the Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle be suspended from the commons for five days over breaches of parliament’s harassment rules. In February of last year, Coyle made racist remarks to a journalist and shortly thereafter had the Labour whip suspended and was also, Labourlist revealed, administratively suspended as a member of the party. The watchdog’s report also covered an incident in which Coyle engaged in what it described as “foul-mouthed and drunken abuse” of another MP’s staff member. Coyle was further criticised by the parliamentary watchdog for having committed “a serious breach of confidentiality” by apparently attempting to “attract favourable publicity” to himself with an interview in the Mirror shortly before the report was published, in which he discussed his struggles with alcoholism. Coyle was also reported to have had a sexual harassment complaint against him upheld by the party; the complaint related to an incident at Labour’s 2019 party conference.

Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq had the Labour whip restored earlier this month, having lost it in September following her comment that the former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was “superficially black”. Speculation has been rife as to whether Coyle will be allowed to stand again for Labour. A clue might come in an email, seen by LabourList, which was sent to local members in his constituency yesterday.

“I am sorry that it has been so long since I was able to contact you as a Labour member in Bermondsey and Old Southwark”, Coyle wrote, continuing: “An independent parliamentary investigation was underway which resulted in my suspension from the Labour Party and a ban on contact.”

“I am proud to once again be a member of the Labour Party” Coyle wrote to members, stressing that he had been following the whip continuously, as well as campaigning for Labour. This is the first indication that Coyle’s administrative suspension as a party member has been lifted, which would seem to be suggestive of a direction of travel: towards the party, rather than away from it. What this means for his possession of the party whip as a MP, or his ability to stand for the party at the next election remains to be seen.

Suspended MPs present a challenge for a leadership which is making much of selecting only a high calibre of candidate to represent the party at the next election. Coyle’s record does not match up to these professed standards. We know that Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next election; nor will Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe, who was convicted of harassment. Neath MP Christina Rees, St Helens North MP Conor McGinn and Newcastle-upon-Tyne East MP Nick Brown all remain suspended as investigations continue. Huq is back in; Coyle’s future remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is that a re-embrace of Coyle would be met with criticism from across the party. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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