Lancaster MP, Cat Smith, Resigns from Labour Front Bench Amidst Starmer’s Reshuffle

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Lancaster and Fleetwood’s MP makes a move to the Labour backbenches over issues of “unsustainable” positions and proportional representation.

One thing that has perhaps gone most understated amidst the recent reshuffle of the Labour party parliamentary ranks, is the voluntary move to the Labour backbenches of MP Cat Smith.

Sir Keir Sarmer came under criticism after his shaking up of the ranks occurred amidst a speech of party chair, Angela Rayner, something she initially appeared to be unaware of. Many are calling this a ‘blindside’ of Mrs Rayner and suggest that it could be an indicator of friction within the upper ranks of the party.

As for the current MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood (a position which she has held since 2015) Cat Smith previously served on the Labour frontbenches as Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs since she was appointed by – then party leader – Jeremy Corbyn. She is a Lancaster University alumni, with a degree in Sociology and Gender Studies and her political career has reflected this connection to her constituency, choosing to back legislation that would benefit the local community.

She noted this in a letter to Sir Keir Starmer, regarding her stepping down from her position on the frontbenches:

“I wish to focus more of my time in my Lancashire constituency in advance of the next election which I look forward to contesting.”

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Whilst other Labour MPs have been moved out of position by Sir Keir – like the shadow climate change and net zero secretary, Ed Miliband, who lost the shadow business secretary responsibilities – it is interesting that Smith has chosen to step down from her position.

Could this be a reaction to the leadership style of Keir Starmer, which seems to be emerging as increasingly centralised after his decision not to reinstate Corbyn as party whip?

In her letter, Smith proposed her reasons for stepping down from her role as being due to a desire to engage more with her constituency, – especially in matters of campaigning for proportional representation and an increased government response to the climate crisis – the lacking Labour support of proportional representation, and the decision not to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn to the parliamentary party, after his suspension due to comments on antisemitism and later readmission to the Labour party.

Mr Corbyn came under fire when he made claims about suggestions of antisemitism within the Labour party being overstated. Whilst he didn’t deny the presence of antisemitism, he did say that,

“the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”

Jeremy Corbyn

This led to his suspension from the Labour Party after the whip was taken from Corbyn, however even after his readmission following a revision of statements, Sir Keir has decided not to reinstate him as party whip.

This decision was addressed by Cat Smith in her letter to Sir Keir, where she said:

“This position is utterly unsustainable and it is important that you truly understand how much damage this is causing constituency Labour parties.”

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Calling the decision “unsustainable” may be a reference to the indications of friction within upper party members, however the “damage” that Smith suggests at not reinstating Mr Corbyn, could equally be due to suspicions that he may run as an independent candidate for his constituency of Islington North, where he is expected to find some success.

Smith also commented that:

“I am a long standing advocate of proportional representation and I am disappointed that we, as a party, have not adopted a position which I believe to be fundamentally fairer and very much in keeping with the views of many of my constituents.”

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Whilst advocacy for proportional representation is not currently included in the Labour manifesto, many – more widely – have argued that it would be a fairer system of voting than the current ‘first past the post’ system, which facilitates short sighted politics through the ignorance of certain ‘safe seats.’

The current Conservative government won on the ‘first past the post’ system, but only with a minority of 43.6% of votes. So the support of proportional representation seems to be in Labour Party interests, with it reflecting – what a number would suggest – a more accurate display of majority opinion.

Among her other reasons for stepping down, Smith included the Government’s “woeful inaction in tackling the climate emergency,” something ever more present after the complacency of COP26. With the current platform for activism in Lancaster regarding the climate emergency, perhaps Smith’s desire to spend more time with her constituency may see her among the campaigners, helping to elevate local protests to a greater stage.

SCAN requested an interview with Smith regarding Sir Keir’s decision not to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn, the proportional representation system and her involvement in the local community, however we were informed that she is no longer doing interviews regarding the content of her letter to Sir Keir and is instead focusing on, “the needs of her constituents.”

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