Kate Hudson, who has lead the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament since 2003 as Chair and then General Secretary, has been selected as candidate for Respect in the Manchester Central by-election expected on 15 November. The by-election is caused by the decision of Tony Lloyd to stand as Labour candidate for Police Commissioner of Greater Manchester. There is no record of Respect (or other left-of-Labour) success in the constituency — but nor was there in Bradford West. Manchester Central has the twelfth highest unemployment in the UK (Bradford West is fifth), a place where Labour’s core vote has voted with its feet in recent years — a place where Labour has no grounds for complacency.
The by-election is undoubtedly a test for Ed Miliband, since Lucy Powell, Labour’s candidate, ran his campaign for the Leadership and was his deputy-chief of staff until selected for this by-election. But it is also a test for Respect. Until George Galloway won in Bradford West, Respect looked like a spent force. The election of Ed Miliband and the beginning of a return by Labour towards its social democratic roots seemed to remove the remaining logic for its existence. There were rumours that Salma Yaqoob, who’d was contemplating joining Labour. If Respect is a vehicle for more than George Galloway’s return to parliament, it must surely show that it can make significant inroads in a declining inner city constituency like this, in spite of its lack of a large Muslim community.
In 2010 the Lib Dems, presenting themselves to the Left of Labour, achieved a 6% swing against Labour in spite of Tony Lloyd’s record of opposing New Labour on issues like the Iraq war, tuition fees and the detention of ‘terrorist suspects’. Labour’s share was 52.7%, the worst result in a central Manchester constituency since the disastrous by-election of 1973 when Labour won 55 (in the Exchange cnstituency which disappeared into Manchester Central as a result of boundary changes the following year). Kate Hudson is certainly more than a single issue campaigner. She is active in the national anti-cuts organisation, the Coalition of Resistance, and the Greece Solidarity Campaign, as well as a former leading member of the Communist Party of Britain.
We have no doubt that Lucy Powell is a formidable campaigner, but so too is Kate Hudson. Lucy Powell would be well advised to forget her previous association with Progress — two years ago she was elected to the national policy forum in the north west on their ticket. It is not ‘triangulation’ that will win this seat, but the sort of clear break with the policies of New Labour that Ed Miliband promised.
If you would like to help Labour’s Campaign in Manchester Central, you can volunteer here.