UK Politics

Owen Smith says Corbyn 'threatening MPs with sack'

Owen Smith Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Owen Smith is challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership

Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith has accused Jeremy Corbyn of "threatening to sack" MPs with his comments about candidate selections.

Earlier Mr Corbyn said there would be a "full and open selection process" in every seat if new constituency boundaries were in place before 2020.

His critics in the parliamentary party fear this would allow pro-Corbyn members to force them out.

Mr Smith said Mr Corbyn was prepared to see the party split.

"It's not much of an employer that says, you know, work for me and work harder or I'm going to sack you all - which is effectively what he's doing today," Mr Smith told the BBC.

He added: "I don't think he (Mr Corbyn) feels he can bring the party back together, that's why he's talking about re-selections because I think he is reconciled, I think he is fatalistic about the prospect of the party splitting apart and being destroyed.

"He just wants to control the Labour Party."

Mr Smith and Mr Corbyn are going head-to-head in Labour's leadership contest.

Although most Labour MPs want the veteran Labour left-winger and serial rebel during the New Labour years to stand aside - and never supported him as a leader in the first place - Mr Corbyn was the overwhelming choice for leader from the party's wider membership last year.

He is still believed to be supported by Labour members and registered supporters - which has led some critical MPs to fear the government's planned boundary review, due to be published in 2018 and reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, could be used to replace them with Corbyn supporters.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn: All Labour MPs to face reselection process

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has previously said there was "no way" the review would be used to allow the new wave of Corbyn-supporting Labour members to deselect MPs.

But taking questions after he launched his leadership campaign, Mr Corbyn said that if the next general election takes place on the revised boundaries: "There would be a full selection process in every constituency but the sitting MP... would have an opportunity to put their name forward.

"So there will be a full and open selection process for every constituency Labour Party through the whole of the UK."

Mr Corbyn's critics said this amounted to a deselection threat - but the leader's team said he had simply been setting out the existing rules.

However, the current rules state that selections following boundary changes are only open to sitting MPs.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Corbyn said the National Executive Committee was in charge of decisions about candidate selection.

During his campaign launch speech, he said if he remains as leader it will be "the job, the duty, the responsibility" of every Labour MP to "get behind the party" and take on the Conservative government.

He also vowed to tackle the "five ills of 21st Century Britain" - inequality, neglect, prejudice, insecurity and discrimination - if elected as PM.

Who can vote in Labour leadership contest?

Labour Party members, affiliated trade union supporters and so-called registered supporters are able to vote, although there are some key differences from the 2015 contest which Jeremy Corbyn won.

  • Labour Party members need to have signed up on or before 12 January to be eligible to vote. Nearly 130,000 people have become members alone since the EU referendum. They will not be able to vote unless they also pay to become a registered supporter.
  • People could register as supporters - giving them a one-off vote - by paying £25 and stating they "share" Labour's aims and values. The two-day window for people to sign up was between 17:00 BST on 18 and 17:00 BST on 20 July
  • Affiliated trade union or socialist society supporters can sign up for less than £25, with rates depending on the organisation they belong to, but they have to have joined an affiliated organisation before 12 January, and then need to register before 8 August

Guide to the Labour leadership election

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