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Black Country Labour MPs less than enthusiastic over December election

By Peter Madeley | Dudley | General Election 2019 | Published:

MPs are hitting the campaign trail for a December 12 general election – but some will be doing so with more enthusiasm than others.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's support for a general election was not shared by all of his MPs

The vote for a poll passed by 438 to 20 on Tuesday night following a spectacular U-turn by Jeremy Corbyn, granting Boris Johnson his Christmas election wish after three previous pushes had failed.

But although more than two-thirds of the House of Commons backed a poll, some Labour MPs in the Black Country were less than enthusiastic – as shown by their votes in the election bill.

Wolverhampton MPs Pat McFadden, Emma Reynolds and Eleanor Smith all abstained, while Adrian Bailey voted against the election before announcing plans to step down.

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Only John Spellar and Valerie Vaz backed Mr Corbyn's call for a poll, amid confusion which shadow chancellor John McDonnell put down to MPs misunderstanding instructions from the whip.

In all 106 Labour MPs abstained, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who was notable by his absence during the election debate on Tuesday.

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Having been a leading proponent for a second referendum, he did not join other shadow cabinet members in trumpeting Mr Corbyn's change of heart over the December poll.

Setting out his campaign message today, Mr Watson told the E&S that he hoped the people of his constituency would put their trust in him at the ballot box.

Tom Watson is facing a challenge from George Galloway in West Bromwich

"Our area has suffered under years of Tory cuts to schools, the NHS and the police," he said. "Violent crime here has soared while the Tories have slashed police numbers in the West Midlands.

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"Only a strong Labour voice will deliver the investment and security this area needs."

Mr Watson is set for an almighty battle for his West Bromwich East seat, where his old nemesis George Galloway is standing against him on a mission to knock him off his perch.

Mr Galloway is standing as a pro-Corbyn, pro-Brexit candidate in a constituency where nearly 70 per cent of people voted to leave the EU.

Tight contests ahead

The region's two most keenly fought seats are likely to be Dudley North and Wolverhampton South West.

Dudley North is currently held by Ian Austin, who was elected as a Labour MP but quit the party earlier this year in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Walsall councillor and former mayor Marco Longhi is standing for the Conservatives in Dudley North

The seat has only ever been held by Labour but the Conservatives see it as winnable, having lost out by just 22 votes in 2017.

A decision on whether Mr Austin will stand as an independent is expected next week.

Walsall councillor Marco Longhi is the candidate for the Tories and West Midlands MEP Rupert Lowe is standing for the Brexit Party.

In a huge Leave backing area, Lib Dem Ian Flynn and the Green Party's Mike Harrison would appear to face an uphill battle.

Eleanor Smith replaced Rob Marris as Wolverhampton South West MP in 2017

Meanwhile former nurse and union boss Ms Smith is defending the 2,185 majority she won in Wolverhampton South West in 2017.

It is a classic swing seat, with the Tories dominating until 1997 when Labour won for the first time. Before last year the previous two winning majorities were 801 and 691.

Pro-Corbyn, Momentum-backed MP Ms Smith will face competition from Brexit-backing Tory Stuart Anderson, a former soldier who now lives in the city having moved from Hereford.

Two of the region's MPs are standing down at the election. Conservative Jeremy Lefroy is leaving his Stafford seat after nine years, with Theodora Clarke contesting it for the Tories in his place.

Conservative Jeremy Lefroy is standing down as the MP for Stafford

And West Bromwich West Labour MP Mr Bailey is also stepping aside.

The former Sandwell councillor, who has been an MP since 2000, said "a younger person, more attuned and comfortable with political campaigning in a social media age would be better placed to promote Labour’s policies and values in the next Parliament".

Meanwhile Margot James, who has had the Tory whip restored, is hoping to stand in the Stourbridge seat she has held since 2010.

She was welcomed back into the fold by Mr Johnson, having been booted out in September for opposing the Government in a key Brexit vote.

It is understood that her local Conservative Association are yet to make a decision over their candidate.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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