Selections in the spotlight: Oldham East and Saddleworth (UPDATE – new shortist)

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.

  1. I am a member of Unite. I used to be a member of the Labour Party in the Hartshill and Penkhulll Ward of Stoke Central.

    My BLP indicated its choice of a council candidate at a meeting in February which was subsequently “null and voided” by Senior Constitutional Officer Eric Wilson and (his little helper) Regional Director Ian Reilly.

    They proceeded to arrange another selection meeting in March at which they permitted just two candidates. Despite this meeting including three ‘top-up’ members of the ‘NEC Selection Board’ (actually cronies of the regional office from other CLPs several tens of miles away) this meeting did not carry the procedural motion to ‘proceed to ballot’.

    At this point there should have been another shortlisting/selection meeting arranged which excluded the two original candidates.

    This did not happen and the Regional Office sent out ballot papers to BLP members containing just the two names which had previously been found unacceptable to the BLP.

    A number of members challenged this and were told that the Chair of the Organisation Committee (Cath Speight) had ordered regional officials to ignore the BLP’s wishes and to impose a postal ballot.

    This sequence of events caused the resignation of the BLP Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and most of the BLP activists – the Chair’s letter to Ray Collins saying it was more a case of ‘constructive dismissal’ than resignation.

    We still await answers to the perfectly legitimate complaints which have been made to the Party, and have made a further complaint to Unite – since the BLP has several Unite members whose democratic choice has been overruled by one of their own national officers.

    There have been other developments (which have included an attempt to get the Co-op Party to do the Labour Party’s dirty work) and we await with much interest the ‘structural reform’ commission which Ed Miliband has promised.

    There is no shortage of evidence (including documentary) for this body to consider and I just can’t wait for it to start its work – always providing that it truly is ‘independent’.

  2. The shortlist has now been announced as Abdul Jabbar, Riaz Ahmed and Debbie Abrahams. The first two are former mayors of Oldham, and the last the ex-candidate for Colne Valey and Chair of Rochdale PCT.