Joy of joys. Here we are again. So soon. Less than nine months since the General Election and the Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidate machine is back in action. This time it is Oldham East and Saddleworth – a vacancy arising from a decision of an Electoral Court to nullify the outcome of the ballot in Oldham East and Saddleworth, and exclude the winner – Phil Woolas – from standing again for a nominal three years (more likely ever again at least as a Labour Party candidate). (UPDATE – new shorlist, see comments)
The local paper the Oldham Chronicle reported yesterday that there are 80 hopefuls. Today Labour’s National Executive Committee grandees will shortlist (and interview). I have asked a cross-section of constituency section representatives if any of them are on the shortlisting panel.
My latest information as of yesterday afternoon was that the panel comprises: Norma Stephenson, a TU section representative from Unison, and current NEC chair; Michael Cashman MEP, a representative from the MP/MEP section and current NEC vice-chair and Cllr Ann Lucas, a local government section representative. Both Michael and Ann are from the West Midlands and Norma is from the North-East. But they will be meeting in London. I may have missed a trick. But I am not aware of any CLP involvement in this part of the process either.
Quite how short-listing and interviewing take place on an equal opportunities basis before the all members’ meeting in Oldham East on Sunday is a bit of a mystery to me too. But then the Labour Party machine has never been too hot on equal ops.
Nor has it had any time for Declarations of Interest. Which members of the NEC are linked to Labour First, or the Labour Representation Committee, or the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy or Save the Labour Party? Members are entitled to know. The NEC to its detriment has yet to adopt a policy requiring its members to complete a register of members’ interest.
So don’t be surprised if the shortlisting follows a familiar pattern. The panel will offer members one electable candidate and a couple of make weights – remember Stoke Central? I hope I am completely wrong.