Sunderland and South Shields MPs face anxious reselection wait

Sitting Labour MPs in the area are waiting to learn if they can stand unopposed for their party at the next General Election.

Clockwise from top left, North-East Labour MPs Bridget Phillipson, Julie Elliott, Emma Lewell-Buck and Sharon Hodgson.
Clockwise from top left, North-East Labour MPs Bridget Phillipson, Julie Elliott, Emma Lewell-Buck and Sharon Hodgson.

A series of trigger ballots are taking place across the three Sunderland constituencies and in South Shields to determine whether or not the sitting MPs will be challenged internally by rival candidates.

The current MPs need to gain the backing of around two-thirds of constituency wards and affiliate branches to ensure they stand unopposed.

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Failure to reach this threshold is likely to lead to a full selection battle.

A Labour source said: “It is the democratic process by which Labour Party members have their say.

“Even the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has to go through a trigger ballot.

“It is a question of whether we we wave them through or whether we subject them to wider scrutiny.

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“If they fail to hit the threshold then a full process of meetings and ballots takes place.”

Initial ballots are believed to be under way for seats held by Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central), Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) and Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields).

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Results are expected to be announced over the next 10 days.

The nationwide process was introduced in time for the 1992 General Election and applies to sitting Labour MPs rather than candidates fighting seats already held by other parties.

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Ballots were not held in 2017, however, because there was insufficient time after then Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election.