Harriet Harman: 'I will not back down' over Speaker bid

20 September 2019, 10:54 | Updated: 20 September 2019, 12:02

Labour MP Harriet Harman vowed not to "back down" after local members demanded she abandon a bid to become the next House of Commons Speaker.

She lost a vote by her Camberwell and Peckham constituency party expressing its "disquiet" at her running for the post.

Members also said they could field a Labour candidate at the next election to oppose her if she does get the top parliamentary job.

Conventionally, the main parties never fight the incumbent Speaker at elections because they are meant to be impartial.

Ms Harman, who is the longest serving woman MP, is standing on a platform of making parliament more modern and family-friendly, and would be the second woman ever to be in charge of overseeing Commons proceedings.

She tweeted that she "will not back down", as she pledged her commitment to her constituents.

She added: "A confident & respected House of Commons representing every constituency in this country & holding govt to account is vital to our parliamentary democracy.

"The Speaker is at the heart of this - that's why I [am] going for it."

But London Labour figures said Ms Harman was targeted for her candidacy.

The motion was led by Nick Wrack, who was readmitted into Labour after standing against Ms Harman for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in 2015, HuffPost UK reported.

He announced the result on Twitter as passing by 26 votes to 22, with seven abstentions.

Sky News has contacted Mr Wrack for comment but none was received at time of publication.

Ms Harman is thought to have decided to stand for the post without consulting key local party figures.

One member said they were "so embarrassed" at the result.

While a London Labour figure added it was "odd" that members "would prefer a Tory MP to become Speaker than a Labour MP".

Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party secretary Dave Lewis said: "It was expressing disquiet about Harriet's decision to stand for the Speaker role and asking her to reconsider."

Mr Lewis said the concern was she would have to resign from Labour in order to be impartial in the House of Commons.

Ms Harman, an MP for 37 years, vowed to carry on campaigning in the run up to replace John Bercow in the Speaker election being held on Monday 4 November.

"I'll always be there for the people of Camberwell and Peckham as I have throughout the last 37 years," she wrote on Twitter.

"I have pledged that my commitment to them will be unshakable if I become Speaker.

"The overwhelming majority of members of Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party understand the importance of a strong and fair Speaker, and support me in this bid.

"I will not back down! #SpeakHer."

Camberwell and Peckham is considered one of the safest Labour seats in the country.In 2017, Ms Harman was re-elected with 44,665 votes - a majority of more than 37,000.