Labour Party no longer a broad church, says Chris Leslie

Chris Leslie has been a vocal critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Lynne Cameron/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Labour Party is no longer a broad church and does not tolerate people with differing views, MP Chris Leslie has said after losing a no-confidence vote brought by local party members.

Mr Leslie, a vocal critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, became the latest parliamentarian to be censured on Friday, and the first since the party’s annual conference in Liverpool.

Similar action has been taken against Labour Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, Luton South MP Gavin Shuker and the Labour Brexiteers Kate Hoey and Frank Field.

In an article for The Observer, the Nottingham East MP condemned Labour intolerance and said it had become “increasingly apparent” that opinions were judged on whether they were acceptable to the party leader.

With every “no-confidence” motion or change of selection rules, the party becomes narrower

Chris Leslie

“Jeremy Corbyn claimed last week that the Labour party should foster a culture of tolerance,” he said.

“But those acting in his name do the precise opposite. The reality is we are no longer that broad church and with every “no-confidence” motion or change of selection rules, the party becomes narrower.

“Such tactics are familiar from the hard left of the past.”

Describing grassroots group Momentum as “the Militant for the digital age”, Mr Leslie added that activists should not be “wasting time and energy” on his loyalty to Mr Corbyn “when the country is ploughing towards a Brexit that will hurt households, businesses and our public services”.

He vowed to continue speaking up for his constituents.

Those MPs targeted by local party votes have either been critics of Mr Corbyn on subjects including anti-Semitism, or hardline Brexiteers who voted with the Tories on key legislation.

The votes carry no official weight in the party but local members can hold a “trigger ballot” for an open selection process ahead of the next general election.

A compromise deal making it easier for constituency parties to remove MPs was passed by conference in Liverpool, reducing the threshold for triggering an open selection contest from 50% to 33% of local party branches or affiliated unions.

Centre-left MPs were quick to rally around Mr Leslie following Friday night’s vote, with Mrs Ryan saying on Twitter: “Disgrace that Chris Leslie is next victim of purge with no confidence motion.

“He is a brilliant MP (and) has been key to opposing damaging Brexit and pursuing People’s Vote.

“We certainly have confidence in him in PLP!”

Chuka Umunna, who has previously urged Mr Corbyn to “call off the dogs” targeting Labour MPs, quoted the party leader’s words in his speech to conference on Wednesday.

The Streatham MP tweeted: “Jeremy Corbyn, 26.09.18: ‘Real unity is based on the freedom to disagree and debate… so we need to foster a much greater culture of tolerance … we must learn to listen a bit more, and shout a lot less. To focus on what unites us.’

“Not sure everyone got the memo, so to speak.”

Mr Corbyn has previously refused to intervene to prevent local activists targeting his internal party critics.

Earlier this month he told the Parliamentary Labour Party it was “not his role to interfere” in local “democratic accountability” after Rosie Duffield briefly faced a motion brought by members of her Constituency Labour Party in Canterbury, a spokesman for the leader said.

The action against the MP, who took the Kent city seat at the 2017 election with a majority of just 187 – after 99 years as a Tory stronghold – was later dismissed following an outcry from fellow MPs.