Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland born MP Hoey vows to fight bid to unseat her after local party passes vote of no confidence

By Suzanne Breen

A Northern Ireland-born Labour MP has pledged to fight efforts to deselect her after her local Labour Party unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in her.

They want pro-Brexit Kate Hoey to lose the party whip and for the national executive not to allow her to be reselected for the Vauxhall seat.

The MP defied Labour whips and voted with the Government on key Brexit votes earlier this month. Ms Hoey, who has born in Mallusk, Co Antrim, has a strong relationship with many unionist politicians.

Last night she was backed by TUV leader Jim Allister. “It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that virulent Remainers are targeting one of the champions of Brexit,” he said.

“Kate Hoey has taken a courageous and principled stand in accordance with that which she laid before the electorate.

“I therefore trust that the attempt to unseat her will be unsuccessful, just as the concerted attempt in 2017 fell on its face.”

In last year’s general election the Liberal Democrats targeted the south London seat, publishing a leaflet showing Ms Hoey’s face merged with Nigel Farage’s.

Ms Hoey had campaigned with the former Ukip leader during the Brexit referendum.

Her constituency recorded a 78% Remain vote. The Labour MP was returned with a 20,000-strong majority. Her critics accuse her of propping up a failing Tory Government.

Ms Hoey said she was not surprised by the challenge and wouldn’t be changing her position on Brexit. She told The Guardian: “My local party activists are solid EU remainers. I will always put my country before my party and helping my constituents is a priority.

“After 29 years as an MP, I am quite relaxed about the vote and it won’t influence in any way how I vote in future.”

The motion, passed at a meeting of the local Labour Party on Thursday night, carries no official weight but Vauxhall activists can seek a trigger ballot to deselect their MP.

A total of 42 members voted against Ms Hoey, with three abstentions and no one supporting her. She is currently in Zimbabwe as an election observer.

The MP put her name to an amendment to the Customs Bill ruling out a customs border in the Irish Sea. It was supported by the DUP and the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg. She was also one of four Labour rebel MPs to support Theresa May’s Government in defeating an amendment calling for a post-Brexit customs union.

The motion also criticised the MP for her support of fox hunting and her views on grammar schools. It accepted that MPs could defy the whip and vote with their conscience, but said this “cannot extend to collaborating with the ERG and DUP”. Vauxhall Labour’s disability officer Fran Springfield said she felt betrayed by Ms Hoey’s actions, which showed that in the MP’s eyes “Brexit was more important than having a Labour Government”.

Ms Springfield said she disagreed with Ms Hoey, who claimed voting with her party on the Trade Bill would not have led to a general election.

“This was certainly what Tory whips were telling their MPs,” she said.

“Any Labour MP who supports this austerity-driven government should have the whip removed.

“Why, when Kate is such a good constituency MP, did she choose to condemn us to more of this dreadful government when we could have had a general election and Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minster?”

Ms Springfield said she hoped the national executive would listen to the views of Vauxhall members.

“We don’t yet know when a trigger ballot is likely to be and at this point in time there have been no formal discussions about possible candidates,” she added.

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