Voting rule change led to skinner exit

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Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner has said that a change in voting rules is responsible for him being voted off the party’s National Executive Committee by fellow MPs.

The 82-year-old left-winger, who has been in the Commons since 1970, lost his place on the NEC to former minister John Healey in a ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party, sparking heavy criticism from supporters.

But the Bolsover MP said that a recent rule change in national executive voting procedure now meant that not just back bench MPs voted in the ballot, but that ministers and whips had also been given a say.

He told Chad that 250 MPs had voted in the ballot, compared with around 130 before the rules changed - with the veteran securing massive support from the back benches in earlier votes.

He also criticised Labour Party members, as only 220 had later turned out to vote against the Coalition in a key Parliamentary vote, he said.

Mr Skinner told Chad: “Twice before I have been defeated and lost my place on the National Executive and both times it was because there was a change in the rules.

“But both times I got back in within 12 months. At the end of the day, Andy Murray had a worst day than me, or at least I imagine he thinks so.”

The move was widely condemned by Labour Party back benchers, many of who took to social media to air their views.

Shadow international development minister Jim Murphy wrote on Twitter: “Really sorry to hear that Dennis Skinner was voted off Labour’s NEC today.

“A brilliant MP and good friend. Hopefully he’ll make NEC comeback.”

Shadow cabinet office minister Jon Ashworth - who is a member of the NEC - posted: “So sorry that Dennis Skinner (who I voted for) not re elected. He will be a big loss.”

There was strong criticism from MPs John Mann and John McDonnell.

“Naive political immaturity in Parliamentary Labour Party in knocking Dennis Skinneroff NEC in election year,” Mr Mann said.

And Mr McDonnell said the vote was a “sign of how distant from reality and from the views of our members some of them (Labour MPs) are”.

“I pay tribute to Dennis Skinner for the work he has done over decades as the voice of the working class left on Labour’s NEC. Comrade and hero,” he added.

Ed Miliband’s office dismissed suggestions that Mr Skinner had been the victim of an organised campaign by the leadership, saying it was a matter for the Parliamentary Labour Party.