Labour campaigners gathered in Angela Smith’s constituency today as part of a push to oust her with a by-election, a week on from the MP’s defection.
“She wants a people’s vote on Brexit, we want a people’s vote on who represents this constituency in Parliament” – said Anne Phipps, treasurer of Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour.
Ms Phipps and secretary Dave Hansell started getting signatures last Thursday, and were supported by the overwhelming majority of the party’s local branch. Since then, more members have joined the petitioning.
The petition has already gathered around 500 signatures: Ms Phipps and Mr Hansell think many constituents do seem keen on seeing Ms Smith gone.
Mr Hansell recalls: “An old gentleman in his seventies was walking on the other side of a busy road and saw our sign. He then ran across the road, risking his life while saying ‘I want to sign this!’”
They have been gathering signatures in Chapeltown, Stocksbridge and today in Ecclesfield among other areas, and have also left sheets in cafés, shops, pubs and independent stores that they aim to collect within a week.
Even though Mrs Smith has already ruled out a by-election, the campaigners think that there might be other benefits of their petition.
Mr Hansell said: “It keeps the pot boiling. A week is a long time in politics, it keeps the issue in spotlight.”
He also said: “People are taking responsibility on what happened on our watch. We’ve got a right to have a say in the circumstances.”
Ms Phipps added: “She has stolen our votes.”
According to her, constituents only stood beside Angela Smith because of her party affiliation. Ms Phipps said this was the same reason why local Labour members were willing to support her in the past years – even when she took positions against Labour’s official agenda.
Ms Phipps said: “We tried hard as a constituency to convince her to be more circumspect about her views. I don’t know if there were signs that she was going to split. There were definitely signs that she was doing all she could to denigrate the direction the Labour party was taking since Jeremy Corbyn’s election. “
Steve Wilson, from Angela Smith’s office, echoed the MP’s earlier claims that a by-election would not be called.
He said: “Under our parliamentary system MPs are elected to represent all of their constituents for the term of a Parliament.
“Given this and the fact, as the present Leader of the Official Opposition once stated, people vote for their MP not party /leader there is no reason why there should be any by-elections.”