by Anita Pollack
The protests about fine candidates being left off European selection lists are not confined to London. Stories of injustice have surfaced from a number of regions.
After three European elections when Labour’s fate was to lose seats, the elections to the European Parliament in 2014 offer a chance of winning some seats and adding much needed new blood to the European Parliamentary Labour Party.
Consequently, it is not surprising that there have been a high number of candidates, particularly since those elected this time will be there for at least five years and maybe a decade or more. What is unpleasant, however, is that the results appear to have been rigged.
Personally, I can only speak about London, where friends of the worthy no-longer-candidate Anne Fairweather took the protests to a new level, the front page of the Times. But this is not a case of only one good candidate being blocked.
Carole Tongue, who was a dynamic London MEP between 1984 – 99 and a deputy Leader of Labour’s European team, and who has been working closely with unions on a number of hot European issues since then has also been cast aside without even an interview.
Ilford South constituency has passed a motion in her favour, as has, I believe, Streatham for Anne Fairweather. Clearly had these women been granted an interview their qualities would have been manifestly obvious and it would have been more difficult to keep them off the final list. So the word had to be to block them from the start to pave the way for the favoured union candidates.
I wrote to Iain McNichol with a copy to Alan Olive expressing astonishment at Carole Tongue being barred, but no reply has been forthcoming. As a former MEP myself of ten years and a stalwart Labour loyalist, I find this disrespectful to say the least.
There can be no excuse for this behaviour. These events are not “political judgement” as was claimed in a letter to one person who wrote in to complain. They are a blatant union stitch-up. What is crazy is that Carole Tongue has a long record of supporting the unions. It is a very sad state of affairs and not worthy of a party seeking to build its credibility with the voters.
Imagine what an exciting set of hustings there could be all around the capital if this group of women, with so much to offer, had been part of the list on offer to party members. The debates could really have set the debate about the European elections alight and improved people’s understanding of the European Parliament.
With no chance of a re-run being offered, the party should take another look at its selection processes for the future.
Perhaps there needs to be a further stage of the regional executives approving the long list prior to interviews and certainly approving the criteria (or at the very least insisting on some criteria!) on which the decisions are to be based. And a much more considered and careful process in determining who sits on these selection panels. How many of the so-called constituency representatives have been proxy union representatives? It is not good enough and should not be swept under the carpet. The NEC should initiate a full inquiry into this whole sorry tale, because our MEPs do matter.
Anita Pollack was an MEP from 1989 to 1999 and is the author of “Wreckers or Builders? A history of Labour MEPs 1979-1999”