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Labour success spoilt once again by selection shenanigans

It is sad that Labour’s election bonanza yesterday at Corby, Manchester Central, Cardiff South and many Police Commissioner elections is once again tarnished by selection shenanigans.

Rotherham CLP two days ago selected their candidate to succeed Denis McShane, or rather were prevented from selecting candidates whom they might well have selected if they had been given the opportunity to do so.

Labour’s NEC in its wisdom decided, as is usual at by-elections, to set up a panel to determine the short list of candidates who it regarded as ‘safe’ to put to the local party for selection. The panel of 5 included Harriet Yeo, the party chair, UCATT’s Jim Kennedy, Tom Watson MP, Keith Vaz MP and Ellie Reeves (though she withdrew and was replaced by another MP, Angela Eagle).What followed may bring about the damage to Labour which the whole fix behind the scenes was designed to avoid.

The panel decided by 3-2, with Kennedy and Yeo opposing, to reject the Rotherham town Concillor, Mahroof Hussain, who was thought to be the preferred candidate of local party members, on the grounds that the child sex grooming case involving Pakistani Muslims had affected not only Rochdale but Rotherham too, and a ‘clean break’ was therefore needed from any association with this scandal.

That was a judgement call that some might take issue with in view of the obvious popularity of Hussain. However, the panel then went on to reject another candidate, Richard Burgon, who was on the parliamentary A list and had the support of all the 9 unions with links to Rotherham. It is very difficult to see how such a bumping off of such a candidate with such a strong Labour party history behind him could be justified.

As a result the NEC panel then presented the local party with a short list of just 2 persons. When this was discovered at the selection meeting attended by 120-130 local members, all hell broke loose. There was such disgust at the party’s tactics that up to a hundred members walked out. The rump of the meeting that was left then selected one of the two candidates, the chief executive of a children’s hospice rather than a former wing commander who had served in Afghanistan, by 13 votes to 11.

The lesson from this sorry tale is that local parties should be allowed to select their own candidates. The Labour Party proudly proclaims itself a democratic party, and should behave as such. The NEC panel has not exactly excelled itself, in this as in previous cases, and the convention that at every by-election it should be the NEC, or a small clique within it, that in effect chooses the candidate by keeping off the shortlist those likely to win should now be quietly dropped.

7 Comments

  1. Andrea says:

    how does it technically work? do they hold a specific vote on all interviewed candidates?

  2. Kevin Wilson says:

    I’m a little confused by all this. You report this as news as if this is something new! The Labour Party isn’t and hasn’t been a democratic party for years. I left the Labour Party in 1996 and Labour at that time imposed candidates and didn’t allow local parties to elect their own candidates. Stop wasting your time and let’s have a new party.

  3. Patrick Coates says:

    Hi Kevin, I joined the Party in 1997, and we have always selected our own candidates, before, during and after New Labour.
    How do you know what happens in the Labour Party, you are not a member.

  4. Patrick Coates says:

    Hi Michael, was it a AWS, if so Men dont come in to it!

  5. Gary Elsby says:

    Patrick, I know what it is like to be a Labour Party member as I paid a subscription for 30 years.
    The introduction in year 1 said I could be a Councillor or even an MP and I could have a say at any meeting I turned up to and even become an Officer of the branch or CLP

    I became Secretary of the CLP, became a candidate in the City and went onto the Parliamentary panel and was the only one in the City on it.

    Blow me down, our MP became ill and stepped down (would you if you were me in that position?)

    A Labour Lord who had a friend in his office wanted his friend to have the slot, and so 30 years of ‘belief’ in the working class Party went out of the window.

    The ‘shoo in’ was remarkeable and I can’t possibly do it justice (as I haven’t the skills) but I’ll try.

    I was booted off the local panel as having ‘no aims and values consistent with Labour’ (huh?).

    I was booted off the Parliamentary Panel (probably for having ‘no aims…….etc’)

    My CLP was then ‘suspended’ for ‘operating outside of NEC guidelines’ (Refounding Labour saw that my CLP and 500 others operated this way).

    Then came the selection: ‘The shoo’ (the sting).

    Two people whom I can only describe as ‘escaped from somewhere’ appeared on a selective panel of 3 which included the Lord’s friend (to this day, no-one knows where this panel came from but Vaz does).
    Open mouthed, we sat through the first two interviews and they remained open for some time after.
    Then came the Lord’s friend whose Father’s first name is Lord….(and bankrolled by a shopping Lord).

    To say it was horrific would be an understatement.

    “I don’t know anything”, said the first of the escapees, “but I am a taxi driver and I can take you anywhere you want to go!”

    The panel that booted me off came to Stoke from all over the Midlands.
    Funny, don’t you think, that they all appeared on the longlist a few weeks later?

    I know what you’re thinking at this point.
    You reckon the three on the final panel were top drawer and we were just upset at having someone forced on us (“or else”).

    No, 2 were train wrecks and the other failed at 2 attempts in open and fair contests.

    That is how it is Patrick.
    What has Ed said to guarantee this never happens again?

    Grass roots members whould do the choosing who speaks for them in London and around the Constituency, not the NEC having its own voice planted around the Country.
    Robert Mugabe would disagree, I’m sure.

  6. […] Labour success spoilt once again by selection shenanigans – Michael Meacher comments on the Rotherham selection process. […]

  7. Rob the cripple says:

    Nothing like democracy within Labour.

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