Labour campaign group to target seats of Cabinet ministers

Updated: 

Grassroots Jeremy Corbyn supporters are launching a mass drive to oust some of the Cabinet's most well-known figures in the hope of creating a series of "Portillo" moments at the next election.

Momentum will train up activists in the "persuasion" techniques used by US left-wing presidential challenger Bernie Sanders in a push to kick out Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and a host of other Conservatives.

The group, which helped propel Mr Corbyn to the Labour leadership, will also take aim at divisive Tories who lost votes in June, such as outspoken backbencher Philip Davies, during the "#unseat campaign".

It claimed to have been partly responsible for Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg losing his seat at the General Election in a result echoing the shock moment Michael Portillo lost his seat in 1997.

Joseph Ejiofor, Momentum National Coordinating Group member, said: "Labour offered a clear and viable alternative in the recent General Election and now Conservative cabinet members like Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd and Justine Greening are no longer sitting in safe seats.

"We helped create a 'Portillo moment' for Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam in June, and we plan to do the same for senior Conservative MPs next time around."

Campaign days will begin with persuasion canvassing training sessions designed with help from activists involved in Mr Sanders' 2016 US presidential bid, which will teach supporters how to build empathy with voters when out door-knocking, before heading out to test the methods.

The events are expected to end with speeches from well-known Labour supporters and shadow cabinet members.

Left-wing author Owen Jones, who is backing the campaign, said former Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, who voted against same-sex marriage, and Mr Davies, who has been accused of holding "anti-women" views, should be ousted.

He said: "That Philip Davies sits in our House of Commons is a cause for national embarrassment. His repeated attempts to thwart and trash legislation to protect women from male violence reveal him as an unpleasant bigot. But we can defeat him. His majority was over 9,600 in 2015; this year, it more than halved."

Mr Jones highlighted Mr Crabb's record on gay marriage, adding: "This opponent of civil rights had a nearly 5,000 majority in 2015; now it's just 314.

"If we campaign now, whenever the next election is called, we will defeat them both. Thousands of campaigners knocking on doors at the last election helped win Tory seats Labour had never before won - and turned Tory safe seats into marginals."

Mr Davies, MP for Shipley, said: "I couldn't care less what left wing morons like Owen Jones thinks - it is what my constituents think that matters to me and at every election my vote has gone up and the percentage of my vote has gone up.

"If he wants to stand in Shipley at a general election he is very welcome but I suspect he is all talk and hasn't got the guts to stand for election."