Corbyn backers take control of Benn’s party in Leeds

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn
Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn
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ONE of Yorkshire’s most senior Labour MPs is on a collision course with his local party after a “takeover” by supporters of leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Political allies of Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, have expressed concern about his future after elections to his Leeds Central constituency party were dominated by Corbyn supporters.

The elections were described by one Labour source in the region as a “takeover” of the Leeds Central party by Corbynites.

The results have been celebrated by Corbyn-supporting activists on social media along with calls for other constituency parties with moderate Labour MPs to follow suit.

A post by one of those involved which has been widely shared on Facebook describes how meetings were held over three months as part of a concerted effort devoted to “getting the CLP under a Corbyn led group”.

Mr Benn initially found favour with Corbyn supporters when he agreed to serve in the Labour leader’s first shadow cabinet last year rather than joining other leading moderate MPs by choosing to head to the backbenches.

However, tensions quickly emerged as Mr Benn pressed Mr Corbyn to commit Labour to unequivocally supporting a Remain vote in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

They were further exposed when Mr Benn defied the leader to speak in favour of British military action against ISIS in Syria, delivering a Commons speech widely described as one of the best in recent parliamentary history.

But it was Mr Benn’s decision in June to tell Mr Corbyn he had no confidence in his leadership and to say so publicly, a move which led to his sacking, which has made him a target.

He is blamed by many Corbyn supporters for triggering the subsequent wave of resignations from the shadow frontbench team which ultimately led to the no-confidence vote and leadership election over the summer.

In the aftermath of his second leadership election victory, Mr Corbyn spoke of the need for Labour to “wipe that slate clean” and unite.

At a rally of Labour moderates, Mr Benn also called on the party to stop “arguing amongst ourselves” and to focus on giving “British people a sense of hope about the future”

But having seen their man secure a resounding victory over challenger Owen Smith in the summer leadership contest many of Mr Corbyn’s supporters have been emboldened to call for action against more moderate voices in the party.

Labour MPs do not currently face mandatory reselection by their local party ahead of each election although there have been calls by Corbyn supporters to introduce the measure.

However proposed changes to constituency boundaries have been seen by some Corbynites as a mechanism to deselect MPs considered disloyal to the leader.

All Labour MPs are subject to a “trigger ballot” where local branches and affiliated organisations get to say whether they remain the party’s candidate for an election.

This is usually seen as a formality but could be an opportunity for a well-organised group to target an MP.

Several Yorkshire Labour MPs are understood to have strained relationships with their local parties after the huge influx of new members supporting Mr Corbyn.