Labour re-think after Gibson de-selection fiasco
Labour is to change the way it disciplines MPs accused of abusing their expenses following the debacle caused by the de-selection of Ian Gibson.In future MPs will be able to appeal against the findings of the party's three-strong disciplinary panel - and supporters say had that been available to Dr Gibson he would have had a better chance of convincing the party not to bar him from standing at the next general election.
Labour is to change the way it disciplines MPs accused of abusing their expenses following the debacle caused by the de-selection of Ian Gibson.
In future MPs will be able to appeal against the findings of the party's three-strong disciplinary panel - and supporters say had that been available to Dr Gibson he would have had a better chance of convincing the party not to bar him from standing at the next general election.
After the panel told him he could not stand for Norwich North, Dr Gibson quit, triggering last month's by-election which saw Labour defeated by Conservative Chloe Smith with a majority of more than 7,000.
The Labour national executive has now agreed that, in future, anyone penalised by the three-strong disciplinary panel - dubbed the party's "star chamber" - will be able to make an appeal to the party's organisation sub-committee following a ruling.
Supporters of Dr Gibson have queried why he was referred to the panel in the first place, when other high-profile figures accused of expenses abuse escaped referral.
The first five MPs recommended for investigation were selected by Nick Brown, the chief whip, and Ray Collins, the party general secretary.
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More MPs could be referred to the panel following an independent audit of expense claims by Sir Thomas Legg, which is expected to be published in autumn.
In her online blog, national executive member Ann Black wrote that changes were on the cards which would enable MPs appearing before the panel to 'make meaningful representations'.
She wrote: 'Four of the five so far produced little blowback, but I still do not know why Ian Gibson was referred and other MPs who attracted more opprobrium, over expenses or other misbehaviour, were not.
'If I had argued more strongly for deferring judgment until we had the full report on all MPs, maybe I could have prevented the Norwich North debacle, maybe not. I have to live with that, and worse, so do the people of Norwich.'
Dr Gibson was barred from standing for Labour after he had allowed his daughter and her partner to live in his taxpayer-subsidised London flat and then sold it to them at less than the market rate.
However, the 70-year-old, who has always maintained he acted within the rules, still has a wealth of support from members of the Labour Party and in his constituency.
Norwich North Labour Party activist Phil Taylor said: 'Although it's better late than never, the Labour Party should have agreed an appeals process before it started ending MPs careers against the wishes of their local members, not after.
'If this has been in place at the start, it's clear Ian Gibson would never have been forced out and we would still have a Labour MP in Norwich North. Local members are still furious at what happened to Ian and will not easily forget, but we are also determined to get back out in our community and start the process of winning back the support of those who feel we have let them down.'
The process of selecting a candidate to go up against Chloe Smith at the next election is expected to get underway next month.
Mr Taylor, a former special advisor to Peter Hain and who has lived in Norwich for six years, is being touted as one possible candidate, but he is staying quiet on the issue. However, his public challenge of Miss Smith in a letter on page 26 of today's EDP is likely to fuel speculation he will throw his name into the hat.