Paul Farrelly the Labour Party member of parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme has this evening voted against a 3line whip in the Article 50 debate imposed by his leader Jeremy Corbyn.
This is incredible because unlike the vast majority of those who rebelled on the Labour benches, he voted against the wishes of 60% of his constituents.
Speaking in the Brexit debate on triggering Article 50 in parliament yesterday he said:
In Newcastle-under-Lyme, after a very hard campaign, it was 60% and 40%. As this fraught, long process goes on, I have not given up on persuading another 10%, at least, in my constituency. In opposing the Bill, I am not disrespecting the opinion of the majority; I just think, on this occasion, that it is wrong. I am not failing to trust the people; I just disagree with some of them and agree with the 48% who voted to remain.
I have a degree of sympathy with those MPs in Remain voting constituencies who felt compelled to represent the electorate’s wishes. Indeed a number of those, who were on the shadow from bench, resigned before they defied the whips.
But Paul Farrelly voted against the wishes of the vast (not slim) majority of Newcastle- under-Lyme because as the quote above suggests – he knows better!
One of his Borough councillors Gareth Snell is embroiled in a fierce battle as the candidate in Stoke-on-Trent Central desperately trying to cling to a slender 5000 majority over pro Brexit and anti-EU protest party UKIP.
Gareth is already having a very tough time convincing his prospective constituents that he has a credible stance over Brexit following the release of a number of highly controversial tweets that he put out in the aftermath of the EU referendum back in June 2016.
Everyday a new series of anti Brexit tweets are revealed, predominantly by right wing blog Guido Fawkes – today’s considered the worse by far:
The timing of this contest and it’s clash with probably the most high profile debate in decades lies entirely at the doorstep of those running the Labour Party campaign in Stoke Central. They had weeks to trigger the by-election. Tristram did not need to resign in parliament when he did. The Brexit/Article 50 debate could have been let to pass.
The message being sent out to the electorate is one of a party split and in chaos over Brexit. Add to that mix, a candidate angry and frustrated at the referendum result who then puts himself forward to represent a constituency which had the largest percentage of Leave voters and you get the gift that keeps giving to Paul Nuttall and his merry band of kippers.
There is a lot of anger aimed at Paul Farrelly over his stance in this matter. Local party activists already have the knives out and discussions about a possible deselection are underway behind closed doors and away from the MP’s inner circle.
Surely if Mr Farrelly wanted his party to have every chance in the upcoming by-election he would have towed the party line and not given the opposition the opportunity of exploiting the division within Labour over the future direction of travel in relation to Brexit.
It is rumoured that there is not a lot of love lost between Farrelly and Snell which dates back to the latters time as leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council.
That rift is still current. A number of contacts have told me that Mr Farrelly made numerous calls and texts to key members and councillors in Stoke Central on the day of the selection meeting, not supporting any particular candidate, but urging people not to support Mr Snell.
Whether that warning was because of the rift between the two, or because Farrelly knew that Snell would come under fire for his Social Media history, remains a mystery.
But what isn’t in question is the amount of ammunition Paul Farrelly’s actions in parliament today has given the opposition in this contest.
If Gareth Snell’s task to retain Stoke-on-Trent Central for the Labour Party was tough up until now – it just got a good deal tougher from tomorrow.