UK election: Jeremy Corbyn to stand as independent while more Tory MPs join ‘chicken run’

Both Labour and Conservative parties still to finalise their full running slates in advance of polling day on July 4th

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed he will stand against the party that he led for five years in the UK general election on July 4th.

Mr Corbyn, who was thrown out of Labour’s parliamentary party by his successor Keir Starmer, was formally expelled from the Labour Party on Friday after confirming he would try to hold on to his Islington North seat as an independent candidate.

Mr Corbyn has been the MP in the constituency in north London since 1983, when he defeated the then-sitting MP Michael O’Halloran, who was originally from Co Clare. In a parallel with Mr Corbyn, Mr O’Halloran, who died in Wexford in 1999, had also tried to hold on to the seat by running as an independent after falling out with Labour’s hierarchy.

Mr Corbyn was excluded from the Labour Party in October 2020 over his response to an official report on allegations of anti-Semitism in the party during his time as leader between 2015 and the end of 2019. He said the claims were exaggerated.


He was readmitted as a party member a month later, but Mr Starmer, who had promised to “rip anti-Semitism out by its roots” from Labour, refused to readmit him to the parliamentary party. Labour’s ruling national executive banned him from running as a candidate in the upcoming election.

Announcing his run as an independent, Mr Corbyn said the members of his local Labour Party had been “denied the right to choose their own candidate”.

“We have to stand up and say we’re not taking this any more, and that we are asserting our rights,” said Mr Corbyn. “I believe in democracy. I want our political parties to be democratic.”

Islington North is one of the safest Labour seats in the country, having been held by the party since 1937. Mr Corbyn had a majority of almost 26,200 votes. However, his decision to run as an independent sets up an intriguing battle with his old party. Hours after he announced his independent bid, Labour headquarters stepped in to select local councillor Praful Nargund as its candidate.

When the election was called, Labour had yet to select candidates for between 80 and 100 constituencies around Britain. Party sources said it had “established procedures” for selecting candidates in the case of a snap election.

Meanwhile, the so-called “chicken run” of sitting MPs announcing they would not run again in the next election gathered pace on Friday, two days after prime minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call the election for July. It had previously been thought the election would happen in November. The number of Tories who are not contesting their seats was on Friday headed for 80, a record.

Among them was UK Housing Secretary Michael Gove. An MP since 2005, Mr Gove has been central to Tory fortunes ever since. He has also served as education secretary, justice secretary, environment secretary and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, who had his hands and feet amputated in recent months after getting sepsis, announced he would not seek re-election. Mr Mackinlay, who had become known as the “bionic MP” due to his four prosthetics, was welcomed back to the House of Commons after his illness only on Wednesday, when all sides of the house clapped him back in. Five hours later, Mr Sunak called the snap poll.

Another Tory to join the “chicken run” on Friday was arch-Brexiteer John Redwood.

Mr Starmer campaigned in Scotland on Friday, while Mr Sunak made an appearance in Belfast, as part of a promise to hit all corners of the UK in the first few days of the campaign.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times