Coventry North west Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson has sensationally abandoned plans to belatedly resign just six weeks before the election and pave the way for an adviser to Ed Milband to replace him.
It follows a storm of protest among colleagues, leaks to the Coventry Observer, and subsequent reporting by other city media.
We exclusively revealed on Thursday the 76-year-old former Blairite minister’s plan. Yesterday, we revealed a leaked email from Greg Beales, an Ed Miliband adviser and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown aide, to Mr Robinson, which appeared to lift the lid on the plan.
We also reported Mr Robinson had, following the leaked story, confirmed to some local Labour colleagues his plans to resign.
Further evidence came in a leaked email, sent yesterday from Coventry North west party secretary Ed Ruane and Mr Robinson’s local office worker to constituency party members, which confirmed Mr Robinson’s intentions to resign.
Coventry councillor Ruane’s email called local party members to an emergency constituency meeting for them to put together a long list of selection candidates to replace Mr Robinson as Labour’s general election candidate on May 7.
Among local Robinson loyalists who felt betrayed was city councillor Jayne Innes, a former employee of his, who took to Twitter to denounce his decision. Local party insiders insisted Mr Robinson had clearly communicated to close colleagues his intention to resign on Thursday, with Mr Beales as his preferred replacement.
After a third day of public silence from Mr Robinson, the Labour party has this afternoon issued a press release carrying a claim from Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas which denied all the evidence already in the public domain including the leaks, in which she alleges it was all “dreadful rumour” and “absolutely false”.
The press release issued today reads: “Coventry North West MP, Geoffrey Robinson, has scotched rumours that he plans to stand down from Parliament saying, ‘I am the Labour Candidate for Coventry NW and I am going to fight to win this seat again on 7th May.’
“Mr. Robinson’s statement came after influential Coventry NW Labour Party member and Labour Council Leader, Councillor Ann Lucas, had sent a message to Labour Party members in Coventry NW saying, ‘Dreadful rumour that Geoffrey not standing. Absolutely false. We fight to win another term for Geoffrey.’
“It was business as usual today for the long-standing city MP who was out campaigning with local party members canvassing for votes for the Parliamentary and Local Elections taking place on 7th May.”
The press release followed a tweet this morning by Robinson loyalist, city councillor Rachel Lancaster, which published a photo of Mr Robinson on the campaign trail. She also dismissed previous stories and claims by her own party colleagues as simply “rumour”.
That prompted several incredulous Labour party and constituency party members to tweet. Trade unionist Frank Keogh tweeted to ask if she “still believed in Father Christmas.”
Another tweeter mooted that April Fool’s Day had come early.
Ryan Prowles tweeted: “All evidence Coventry North West holds its membership and the electorate in contempt.”
Several erstwhile Robinson loyalists had felt betrayed, fearing his eleventh-hour resignation would prevent the local party from choosing its own favoured candidate from its own candidate list, with an emergency shortlist instead being imposed by national party bosses with Mr Beales as Mr Robinson’s preferred candidate.
Coun Innes was among those who had accused Mr Robinson of a “stitch-up” after he had for months and years insisted he would stand for his tenth term this year.
Rumours he may quit have circulated intermittently for three years since it was alleged former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s son Euan Blair was being lined up as Mr Robinson’s replacement. That also met with protest among the constituency party.
Some observers on social media speculated that the “will he, won’t he” saga will leave Mr Robinson damaged, and some insiders now wonder if Mr Robinson will not stand for the full term in the Coventry North west Labour stronghold.
Several Labour city councillors will be eyeing up the seat as his replacement if there is a by-election in the coming years after, as is now expected, Mr Robinson is re-elected to Parliament on May 7.