Phil Wilson says he’s geared up to fight a General Election when the time comes.
Despite claims in the media that the Sedgefield MP could face possible de-selection by the Labour Party, Mr Wilson says he’s determined to fight a fifth election.
Mr Wilson, who succeeded Tony Blair as Sedgefield’s MP in 2007, has been publicly critical of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn since he became leader in 2015.
And he has come under pressure from some quarters of the local Labour party to back the leadership.
During the BBC Sunday Politics show last weekend, reporter Richard Moss said there were rumours Mr Wilson was facing de-selection by the party after he had refused to “pledge allegiance” to Corbyn.
The Sedgefield Constituency Labour Party has told Aycliffe Today that those rumours weren’t accurate – and that the MP wasn’t challenged to back Corbyn.
But we understand he was asked by former Aycliffe councillor Mike Dixon, secretary of the Aycliffe East branch, if he would support “the leadership”.
Mr Wilson, who won his fourth election with a majority of 6,059 in the 2017 snap election, told Aycliffe Today: “I’m ready to fight an election when the time comes.
“I’m proud to represent my constituency, where I was brought up and have always lived, and I’ll always stand up for what I believe in.
“I think the majority of traditional Labour supporters in the Sedgefield constituency will want me to get on with doing the job and fighting for local people and local issues, rather than squabbling over whether I support the national party leadership.
“It’s my job to represent local people at Westminster and I hope I can continue to do that.”
At a recent meeting of the Sedgefield CLP, the Aycliffe East branch of the Labour Party tabled a motion to trigger a ballot process to select the next candidate for an election, which was passed unanimously by the CLP.
Sedgefield CLP insists the trigger ballot process – which means the party’s candidate will be democratically chosen by members, rather than the current MP being automatically selected without opposition – is standard practice, and that Sedgefield would be one of the last constituencies in the country to trigger it.
Sedgefield CLP chair Paul Daly told Aycliffe Today: “Following a Parliamentary update to members, Phil was asked a number of questions (at a recent meeting) and all of them were delivered in a respectful manner. This lasted the best part of an hour.
“After this a motion from Aycliffe East branch which asked for the trigger ballot process to be started at the earliest opportunity. The branch had passed this unanimously.
“Following a short debate, the motion was also adopted by the CLP with one abstention. This motion does not prejudge the outcome of a trigger ballot, but simply asks that the process is initiated as it has been in many CLPs around the country and in the region. It is due to be started anyway.
“Our CLP delegate last year spoke at Conference to ask that there should be mandatory reselection in all seats, just as there is for any County Councillor so many simply want the choice to come to members, as they have not had a say on their Parliamentary Candidate selection since 2007.
“Many think it is perfectly reasonable for a candidate to be endorsed by members every five years.”
Ahead of the 2017 general election, Mr Wilson caused outrage among rank-and-file Corbyn fans when he distanced himself from the Labour leader, before cruising to a comfortable win over the Conservative candidate Dehenna Davison.
His victory also came despite campaigning hard to Remain in a constituency which voted overwhelmingly to Leave.
Mr Wilson has subsequently been a major supporter of the so-called People’s Vote, insisting a confirmatory referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU is the “only way forward”, but that Leave should be on the ballot paper.
“These are the issues we should be talking about,” added Mr Wilson. “Not petty arguments and rumours. The majority of the public will want me to get on with my job, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“I firmly believe a final confirmatory vote is the only way forward. In 2016 we voted to leave, but we didn’t know what the terms would be. Now we know what Brexit looks like, I think people have a right to decide on how we leave.
“Like everyone else, I want to move on as quickly as possible and start talking about other important issues that affect my constituents.”