KEIR Starmer says he’s preparing for a by-election in Margaret Ferrier’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.
The Labour leader made the announcement as he spoke to constituents in a virtual “Call Keir” town hall-style meeting.
It’s been a week since Ferrier admitted breaking strict coronavirus self-isolation rules by travelling to and from London, and working in the House of Commons as usual.
She was suspended by the SNP last Thursday, and has referred herself to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, and to the police.
Ferrier took a coronavirus at the end of September after experiencing symptoms. Despite that she then travelled to London by train and gave a speech in the Commons.
When she received a positive test result she travelled back to Scotland.
The MP misled her SNP colleagues by suggesting she was leaving Parliament early to visit a sick family member.
Nicola Sturgeon has called on her to resign her seat.
So far, the MP has made no further comment.
Starmer insisted Labour could win.
He said: “I’ve been listening to her constituents this afternoon on a virtual event and they’re furious with her, they think it’s completely inappropriate that she’s continuing as an MP.
“She needs to listen to that and step down. It’s a huge error of judgment on her part not to have done so.
“We’re completely up for it, we’re preparing for it, there should be a by-election because she should step down. We’ve won it in the past, we won it in 2017 and we can win it again but we need that by-election because it’s the right thing to do.”
In his meeting with constituents he asked those taking part to give him a frank assessment of the Labour.
A woman called Elaine at the event said she had been a lifelong Labour voter but had become disillusioned with the party.
Describing the party in Scotland, she told Starmer: “It’s a joke, they’re all infighting.”
She said she had voted for Ferrier at the last election but now considered her a “disgrace”.
Starmer responded: “If you’re disillusioned, then something’s wrong and needs to change within the Labour Party.”
He said the party was under “new leadership” and he had run on the basis of uniting the party.
Elaine said “don’t side with the Tories in the last referendum in Scotland” when he asked what he should focus on.
The Labour leader said: “On economic things, we do all depend on each other much more than we sometimes appreciate.
“Dealing with Covid-19 is going to be hard enough as it is, therefore pulling apart the United Kingdom at the same time – the economic damage that would bring I personally think would be pretty profound and I would really worry about that.”
He told another at the meeting: “I do believe that all of the nations of the United Kingdom are better off together and we shouldn’t be pulling apart, creating differences between us across borders”
He said he wanted to make the case for “radical federalism” and “people need to feel like they’ve got more control over their own lives”.