Mike Gapes, newly re-elected Labour MP for Ilford South, has set jaws dropping across his constituency and beyond – as he denies that the “Jeremy Corbyn effect” was a factor in his re-election.
A number of constituents and ordinary voters have tweeted Gapes since polling day, asking him to acknowledge that Corbyn had done a good job in leading the Party, which should now unite behind their Leader. Some even suggested that if the rebel MPs had backed Corbyn as soon as he was elected, rather than trying to organise no confidence motions and threatening to launch a new party, Labour could have come out of the General Election as the largest party, able to form the Government.
Gapes has refuted these suggestions and, in many cases, blocked the person putting them to him. He seems to be relying on a narrow interpretation of the “Corbyn effect”, pointing out that he and Wes Streeting (anti-Corbyn MP in neighbouring Ilford North) did not support Corbyn but were re-elected this time with increased majorities.
However, those tweeting him were suggesting that voters backed Gapes because they wanted to see Corbyn’s Labour Party in government – and if they lived in Ilford, this was the only action they could take. They were voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party despite the fact that Gapes was the candidate, not because of it.
A few people joined in the Twitter discussion to say they had voted for Gapes because he had been an excellent MP, but they were fewer than the number asking him to accept Corbyn’s achievements and unite behind the Leader.
Gapes worked in the Labour Party HQ for several years before he became an MP and has had a number of run-ins with Jeremy Corbyn since he became Leader.
•When the new Labour Leader called for a review of UK involvement with coalition air strikes on Iraq, Gapes said Corbyn was “wrong”.
•He later refused to follow the Labour Party line on Brexit, refusing to vote to trigger Article 50 and begin Brexit negotiations.
•Gapes was also responsible for singing “Back in the USSR” at the Labour MPs’ Christmas Party, just before Jeremy Corbyn left – though Gapes later denied that Corbyn had walked out because of the choice of song.
Gapes had a particularly grumpy day on Twitter in October 2015, when he said he had no intention of accepting the authority of Jeremy Corbyn. It ended with Gapes tweeeting “I’m Labour. If you want me out you will have to deselect me.” If he continues to be out of tune with the majority of party members, they may just choose to accept that invitation.
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