The fallout from Frank Field’s decision to resign the Labour whip over the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations continued today. Field wants to stay on as a Labour party member but act as an independent in Parliament. The Labour leadership doesn’t look kindly on this arrangement and has given him two weeks to withdraw his resignation – or face expulsion. Field has no plans to play ball.
However, the issue that has the Corbynistas most excited is the prospect of a by-election. Field is under no obligation to go to the polls but on a blitz of the broadcast studios this morning, he said he is considering it. He promised to spend the ‘next few days’ asking his constituents in Birkenhead for their thoughts:
‘I will obviously make a decision about whether I should actually have a by-election or not… I will be in Birkenhead, people will be talking to me, coming up to me in the street to see whether they want me to have a by-election or not.’
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon – a key Corbyn ally – took to social media to declare that calling a by-election in the current circumstances would be ‘the right and respectful thing’.
Even if a by-election doesn’t materialise, the Corbynites could soon have an opportunity to rid the party of those MPs not in tune with the leadership. Next week the government is expected to publish its boundary review – which would reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. If the plans go through, some form of reselection process would be expected to follow. With Labour’s National Executive Committee weighted in favour of Corbyn allies rather than moderates, MPs fear it will be used as a tool for deselection. Even if Field survives as an independent, other Labour MPs may not be so lucky.