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Jeremy Corbyn will not get involved over Harriet Harman’s Speaker bid

Ex-deputy Labour leader says she will press on with attempt to succeed John Bercow despite opposition of local activists.

Harriet Harman receives flowers from Jeremy Corbyn in tribute to her service to the Labour Party (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Harriet Harman receives flowers from Jeremy Corbyn in tribute to her service to the Labour Party (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

By Sam Blewett and Gavin Cordon, PA Political Staff

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not interfere after local Labour Party members urged Harriet Harman to drop her bid to become the next Commons Speaker.

The former deputy leader said she was determined to press on with her attempt to succeed John Bercow after members in her Camberwell and Peckham constituency expressed their “disquiet” in a vote on Thursday.

Members also hinted that she could face a Labour candidate at the next general election, flouting the convention of the main parties not standing against the occupant of the chair.

During a round of ITV regional news interviews on Friday, Mr Corbyn initially indicated that she should be given a free run at the election if she wins the ballot of MPs to replace Mr Bercow on November 4.

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Jeremy Corbyn has said local party members are entitled to express their views (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The tradition is that the Speaker is unopposed by other parties when the election comes around,” he told YTV.

“John Bercow wasn’t opposed by the major parties and most other speakers haven’t been.”

However pressed later in an ITV London interview, he said the local party was entitled to “express a point of view” and indicated that he would not get involved.

“They are entitled to do that. They are the constituency party, they are the members who supported and elected her in the past,” he said.

“I don’t interfere in the running of local parties. What I want to do is make sure they are democratically run and that all MPs are accountable.

“I have just been through the trigger ballot system myself in my constituency. There is nothing wrong with that.”

Earlier, Ms Harman tweeted “I will not back down”, as she pledged her “unshakeable” commitment to her constituents.

She added: “A confident & respected House of Commons representing every constituency in this country & holding govt to account is vital to our parliamentary democracy.

“The Speaker is at the heart of this – that’s why I going for it.”

The motion was moved by Nick Wrack, a barrister who was once blocked from joining Labour after standing against Ms Harman for the Trade Unionists and Socialists party in 2015.

The vote was initially tied at 21 to 21, but a recount passed the motion by 26 to 22.

It noted that Ms Harman had decided to stand for the post without consulting key local party figures and acknowledged that the convention is for parties not to field a candidate against the Speaker.

Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party secretary Dave Lewis said: “It was expressing disquiet about Harriet’s decision to stand for the Speaker role and asking her to reconsider.”

The concerns, Mr Lewis said, were that the MP would have to resign from Labour in order to be an impartial figure in the House of Commons.

“As a party we lose a political voice in the House of Commons and as an electorate people of Camberwell and Peckham lose a voice in the House of Commons. That’s the feeling,” he said.

He said that despite the vote, it would be unlikely they would stand a candidate against Ms Harman.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he said. “It would have to be signed off by the national party and I can’t see them signing that off.”

Camberwell and Peckham is considered one of the safest Labour seats in the country, and Mr Wrack’s bid to oust Ms Harman in the 2015 vote saw him trail with 292 votes to her 32,614.

She is expected to take part in the Speaker’s election on November 4, after Mr Bercow announced he will take the chair for the final time on October 31 – the current Brexit deadline.

PA

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