Neil Coyle has warned the Corbyn-supporting members of his party that they could be in for a shock if they attempt to remove him under new Labour selection rules.
Under new party rules, if just a third Coyle’s constituency branches and affiliates vote against him in a ‘trigger ballot’, held in September, he could find himself facing an open contest.
Until that confidence vote is held it is unlikely anyone will publicly declare themselves ready to step into the ring. One well-placed source in Southwark described Coyle’s chances as “around 50/50”.
In Bermondsey, the outspoken and divisive Coyle has enraged sections of his membership by calling out Corbyn over his handling of Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism – but he does have his own supporters in key constituency positions.
Coyle told the News he was “optimistic” that he could come out top: “It’s an arrogant assumption that every member will still back Corbyn, and inaccurate.
“We have strong support for my stance on Brexit and tackling anti-Semitism, and I have signed up many members on that basis.”
“This is all a waste of resources especially for MPs in marginal seats, and an own goal for Labour.
“I would much rather be focusing on campaigning for more police officers in Southwark and lobbying on reforming Universal Credit.”
Bermondsey and Old Southwark is one of the first constituencies to undergo the process, much earlier than expected, despite Coyle being a backbencher – possibly as a clear warning to rebellious MPs.
Southwark consistently polls as one of the UK’s top pro-Remain areas – despite vocal pockets of leave voters. Coyle thinks given the current deadlock his constituency could find itself “not a safe Labour seat” – if it isn’t already – in the event of him being usurped.
Elsewhere, Helen Hayes, in Dulwich and West Norwood, is generally regarded as an effective and well-liked MP even among sections of the party who would prefer a harder-left candidate.
Her pro-Remain interventions have so far avoided causing genuine upset with the leadership. In a selection process, her fate is hard to predict. But Harriet Harman is increasingly looking as unstable as Coyle.
As the News has reported, after nearly 40 years centrist Harman has all but lost control of Camberwell and Peckham to the left of her party, who will no doubt be unimpressed with her refusal to distance herself from claims she is eyeing up the chance to lead a coalition.