By a Camberwell and Peckham CLP activist
On 19 September the General Committee of Camberwell and Peckham CLP voted to oppose our MP Harriet Harman’s bid to become speaker of the House of Commons.
The vote was quite narrow — 26-22 on a card vote, with seven abstentions, after a show of hands was drawn 21-21.
Arguments in favour were that as a deprived inner-city constituency we need to be represented by a Labour MP and that Harriet had put herself forward without consulting party members. When asked previously if she had plans to stand, she had responded only that there was no vacancy.
There’s also a feeling that given her record of placing career ahead of principle, she wouldn’t actually be an effective speaker in terms of standing up for the rights of Parliament against the executive.
The Momentum group, which includes most of the CLP left, did not have a common position. Some members voted against or abstained, on the grounds that this was a tokenistic move which would cause division for no practical gain (we can’t block her application, and the National Executive Committee would never let us run a candidate against her) and that under the present system at least one CLP will be disenfranchised in any event.
The underlying issue is that Camberwell and Peckham’s trigger ballot was due in October, and there was a good chance that the CLP would have voted for open selection.
Harriet had managed to get the procedure deferred to November, knowing that being elected Speaker would avoid having to submit herself to the democratic scrutiny of party members on her record.
That record includes supporting the 2016 PLP coup against Jeremy Corbyn, and voting for benefit cuts for single mothers and for the Iraq war. Her record as a champion of equality is mixed, to say the least.
Overall, this was an assertion by the CLP of its right to hold its MP to account, and as such a positive development. It will be interesting to see what happens if Harriet Harman’s bid for the Speaker’s chair is unsuccessful.
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