Harriet Harman has vowed to continue her campaign to become Speaker of the House of Commons despite opposition from her constituency party members.
This week, her Camberwell and Peckham members called on her to pull out – or face deselection as her seat’s automatic candidate in the next general election.
The motion proposed by Nick Wrack, to not support her campaign, was approved by a margin of four votes (26-22) and seven abstentions.
In a statement made on Twitter, Harman said her commitment to the people of Camberwell and Peckham was “unshakable”, claimed the “overwhelming majority” of members supported her bid to be a “strong and fair Speaker”, and vowed: “I will not back down”.
Wrack, who stood against Harman as a Trade Unionist Socialist Coalition candidate in 2015, said of the decision: “Camberwell & Peckham decided democratically that we’d rather have a Labour MP in parliament than Harriet Harman as Speaker.
“Other Labour CLPs may agree to lose their MP’s voice so that the MP can become Speaker. That’s their choice.”
He went on to say by becoming Speaker, Harman would effectively extricate herself from being accountable to her local party; where key positions are held by Momentum members.
As the News has reported, there are concerns within her membership – strongly refuted by Harman – that the role of Speaker is incompatible with representing her demanding Southwark consistency, especially given its chronic housing shortages, high-profile knife crime and gang-related violence.
Harman – Camberwell and Peckham MP for 37 years and the Commons’ longest serving woman MP – has received a huge groundswell of support from Labour colleagues outraged at what they view as a betrayal of a life-long Labour stalwart and worried Labour’s infighting would only alienate voters.
In Southwark, Councillor Leo Pollak said Harman was “an icon and inspiration to so many people, who’s dedicated her life to Camberwell and Peckham and is so well placed to transform our broken political culture as Speaker.”
He described the outcome of the vote as a “gift to all reactionaries and Tories”.