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Danczuk’s treatment makes it open season on Labour candidates’ private lives

02/05/2017, 11:28:37 AM

So Simon Danczuk is to be barred from standing in the general election and deprived of defending his Rochdale seat that he first won form the Lib Dems in 2010.

A high price to pay for being an honest critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s various shortcomings and for his ubiquity in the pages of our tabloid newspapers.

Yesterday, he faced a three-member star chamber of the National Executive Committee to answer allegations that he was involved in sexting a 17 year-old girl back in 2015.

Danczuk made no excuse for his actions. He explained to the NEC that he was going through a hard time in his personal life (for which he subsequently received counselling) and had simply made a foolish mistake.

Without rehashing details, there was no allegation of illegality and most fair-minded observers would regard it as a closed, private matter.

Labour’s NEC operates to higher moral standards, it seems.

They deemed his actions to be so deplorable that he must forfeit his political career.

But in their bid to punish a critic and (they imagine) free up a Labour seat for a Corbyn acolyte, the leadership has just made a catastrophic error.

What will the NEC now do if it is revealed a Labour MP or candidate is, say, having an extra-marital affair? Or has a cocaine habit? Or uses rent boys?

By punishing Danczuk they have just set a precedent that the sexual peccadillos of other candidates are enough to have them dumped, inadvertently announcing open season on Labour MPs’ private lives.

Gleeful researchers in Conservative Central Office will be able to weaponise tittle tattle about Labour MPs to detract attention from the ongoing police investigation into their 2015 election expenses.

Right-wing tabloids, perhaps wary of exposing MPs following the Leveson inquiry, will feel justified in bringing tales of Labour MPs’ human frailties to light.

Corbyn has just done exactly what John Major did during his ill-fated “back to basics” campaign in the early 1990s. He has invited the media to hold other Labour candidates to the same standard as Danczuk.

Many will be found wanting.

Westminster is a gossipy place and there are plenty of Labour MPs who should be panicking right about now.

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Danczuk NEC hearing delayed yet again

26/04/2017, 10:17:30 PM

Today was meant to be the day that the NEC finally decided on whether Simon Danczuk would be allowed back into the party and to stand as an official Labour candidate in the looming election.

It’s been over a year since he was suspended and this decision has been a long time coming.

As arranged, Simon Danczuk made his way to the meeting in good time and was waiting outside the room, ready to hear his fate.

And then he was told.

Despite the huge, unexplained delay in scheduling this hearing, the NEC wasn’t quite ready. More time was needed to review the paperwork. Really.

Monday is the new decision day. The saga continues. Readers will draw their own conclusions on the efficiency and effectiveness of the party’s internal processes.

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Danczuk to learn his fate today

26/04/2017, 07:28:55 AM

Simon Danczuk is set to appear before a star chamber of the National Executive Committee this morning to learn whether he will be readmitted to the party and allowed to stand as the official Labour candidate for his Rochdale seat.

Suspended from the party since December 2015 following newspaper allegations about his private life, Danczuk had previously earned widespread praise for his tenacity in exposing his predecessor, Sir Cyril Smith, as a sexual predator.

His disciplinary case is now a microcosm of a bigger debate within the party.

As Atul noted the other day, it boils down to whether Labour’s priority at this election is maximising the number of Labour MPs returned, or positioning for post-election control of the party.

If the former, the NEC has to allow Danczuk to stand.

Despite his ubiquity in the tabloid media, he remains popular among his constituents and is a solid and determined campaigner.

In 2015, he increased his majority from 889 in 2010 to 12,442.

The Rochdale seat is mercurial for Labour. Having oscillated between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in recent elections, Danczuk remains Labour’s best chance of holding it.

If, however, the party leadership is more concerned with the composition of the post-election parliamentary party- and the potential of getting a bloc of left-wingers who will nominate a left-wing successor to Corbyn – then removing a vocal critic of the leadership like Danczuk may be the over-riding consideration.

Is Labour a serious political party focused on winning an election, or a fan club? The treatment meted out to Simon Danczuk will tell us.

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Leadership fix machine cranks into action for selections in safe seats

25/04/2017, 09:50:14 PM

While the general election played out in the country today, within the Labour party, the focus has been on selections for the 14 seats where Labour MPs are retiring.

On a day of swirling rumours and frayed tempers, long lists have started to be drawn up by the party as Corbynites battle to secure places for their favoured candidates.

In practical terms, the available seats for this political game of musical chairs is a lot less than 14.

Five seats are off the table because they are likely to be lost – Slough, Hartlepool, Birmingham Edgbaston, Wolverhampton South West and Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

The scale of potential revolt in the local party in Lewisham West and Penge at the prospective imposition of a Corbynite seems to have put off the leadership there while Metro Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram has fended off the threat of having the leader’s son, Seb Corbyn, foisted on Liverpool Walton. Current Liverpool city Mayor, Joe Anderson, is the hot favourite for this, the safest Labour seat in the country.

That leaves six seats – Leigh, Hull West and Hessle, Blaydon, Barnsley East, North West Durham and Oxford East.

Corbyn spokesperson Sam Tarry is in the frame for Hull West and Hessle, preferred over David Prescott, son of John and recent Corbyn speech-writer (albeit for a few weeks before being moved out of the leader’s office).

Rumours are that Katy Clark, Corbyn’s political secretary is being lined up for Leigh, despite recent incumbent Andy Burnham having written an open letter opposing the imposition of a non-local candidate and backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt.

Barnsely East, former seat of Michael Dugher, is also being eyed by the leadership as a destination for a preferred candidate, as much to punish Dugher for his outspoken criticism of the leadership as to secure a seat for a Corbynite. Names mentioned in relation to Barnsley East include Katy Clark again and Karie Murphy.

Murphy is Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff having formerly been Tom Watson’s office manager and the candidate at the heart of the catastrophic Falkirk row in the last parliament. Following Falkirk, she was reportedly blocked from the Halifax selection just before the 2015 election, by Harriet Harman.

The machinations will continue for the rest of the week, consuming the focus of the senior party leadership and burning another week of the general election campaign.

 

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Corbynites accused of trying to parachute loyalists into seats

24/04/2017, 03:52:02 PM

Speculation swirls that allies of Jeremy Corbyn are set to be parachuted into seats where the Labour MP is stepping down, bolstering support for the Corbynites in the event of a post-election leadership challenge.

Candidates for Labour’s vacant seats were asked to submit CVs by lunchtime yesterday and given the election campaign is already underway, the National Executive Committee can impose candidates.

Sitting Labour MPs are automatically reselected, presenting the temptation to parachute leadership-friendly candidates into seats Labour has a good chance of holding.

The Greater Manchester seat of Leigh, where Andy Burnham is stepping down to concentrate of the forthcoming metro mayoral battle, is a plum berth for someone, inheriting a 14,096 majority.

However Burnham has fired a warning shot to the leadership with an open letter, backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt, as his successor. The letter reads:

‘I am in no doubt that Leigh needs a Labour candidate with strong local credentials and that the best person to succeed me is Councillor Joanne Platt.

‘Jo is well-known and well-liked across the Leigh area. She is an excellent campaigner and has been the driving force behind the reinvigoration of Leigh Labour Party in recent years.’

Burnham warns:

‘Were the Party to opt for a candidate with no local ties, I have to make clear that this would not be supported by the vast majority of our members and would go down very badly with the Leigh public. This would run the risk of losing significant support at the Election and it is why it is my strong advice that this course should not be followed.’

There is a similar situation in Liverpool Walton, where Steve Rotheram is standing down to contest the Liverpool mayoral role. The seat – Labour’s safest with an impregnable 27,777 majority on 72 per cent of the vote – is certainly a prize.

Last week, Liverpool’s elected city mayor, Joe Anderson, announced that he was going for Walton, with rumours (now dampened down) that Jeremy Corbyn’s son, 25 year-old Seb, an aide to John McDonnell, was also set to stand.

As the NEC and regional boards begin the process of earmarking candidates for seats this week, they will need to tread softly in case they trigger a local backlash at any imposition of candidates.

Meanwhile, the left needs to be cautious having (rightly) complained about Blairite fixing in the past.  It would be a case of ‘two legs good, four legs bad’ if Corbynites now do the same thing.

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Gisela Stuart quits

19/04/2017, 05:49:07 PM

Controversial Labour MP Gisela Stuart has told her CLP that she will not contest the next election. In 1997, her victory in Birmingham Edgbaston was the first big Labour gain of the night from the Tories and she was a symbol of the new wave of Labour MPs. Latterly however, as a prominent advocate of leaving the EU, she alienated many PLP colleagues and local former supporters.

This morning on the Today programme, she was unable to say she would back Jeremy Corbyn for PM. In her e-mail to her members she said,

“I wanted you to hear from me that I have decided not to contest the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency at the general election in June.

After 22 years of campaigning and 20 years of having had the privilege of being the MP for this diverse, forever surprising and wonderful marginal seat I know when it is time to stand down and pass on the baton.

Together we have done amazing things; things we never expected when I became the first “Labour gain” of the Labour 1997 landslide as well as the first ever Labour MP for Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton. We won local battles, brought people together, challenged established assumptions about voters (and sometimes our own) and won elections against Tories that we didn’t think were possible. But together we did it . We are Labour and our values are Labour.”

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Labour’s best hope? Hold what we have

18/04/2017, 03:53:58 PM

The etiquette of a general election requires opposition parties to welcome it.

It’s supposed to bring to a head years of public animosity with the governing party, allowing the opposition to channel the hopes and desire for change of frustrated voters.

Fat chance of any of that happening on June 8th.

Theresa May’s snap general election is a chance to grind Labour’s face into the dirt.

This is a bid for naked political advantage. Party before country.

Alas, it was made inevitable from the moment Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Labour’s lurch to the barren shores of the hard left made this election an irresistible prospect.

Sure, Theresa May has a point about wanting a strengthened mandate from the voters for the tough Brexit negotiations to come, but it’s a fig-leaf. A secondary excuse.

Despite the public front that it welcomes the election, Labour is reeling. There is no prospect of anything other than a drubbing.

And everyone knows it.

Indeed, insult will be added to injury midway through this campaign when we’ll see the twentieth anniversary of Labour’s 1997 landslide on May 1st 1997.  Back then, Labour won a parliamentary majority of 179.

Now, it will now be lucky if it can now hold that number of seats.

Plenty perfectly decent Labour MPs are about to pay the price for Jeremy Corbyn’s personal unpopularity and eager embrace of the desiccated corpse of hard left gesture politics.

Although the party has claimed to be on election footing for a while – and with the influx of new members is financially well placed to fight a campaign – Labour candidates are marching headlong into the Valley of Death.

Even Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, recently conceded it will take two years for the party to rebuild in the polls from two years of infighting.

Labour now has less than two months.

There is only one thing the party can realistically hope for; that its core vote is stronger than Westminster chatterers assume.

And the only glimmer of hope is that Labour’s existential psychodrama is now brought to a head.

Instead of waiting until 2020, Labour has the chance to rebuild earlier than predicted. Cold comfort.

Other than that, this is Labour’s darkest hour.

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When it comes to selections, meet the new boss. Same as the old boss

17/03/2017, 12:02:57 PM

There are allegations of direct interference from Jeremy Corbyn’s office in the process to select a candidate for the Manchester Gorton by-election.

Local members report they are being called and urged to back Sam Wheeler, a Corbyn loyalist, from ‘the leader’s office.’

This would mark a new departure in terms of leadership interference in a selection battle.

Although both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown exerted influence behind the scenes to support favoured candidates, they were never as blatant as Jeremy Corbyn appears to be in Gorton.

After struggling to insert favoured candidates in both the Copeland and Stoke Central by-elections, it seems the Corbynistas are going all-out to shoe-horn Wheeler into the nomination.

This comes as the Guido Fawkes website reports comments Wheeler made in a blog, where he claimed the armed forces helped to ‘to shore up a waning sense of national identity and importance.’

There are also rumours flying around that a deal among Asian Muslim hopefuls to unify behind a single candidate have foundered.

Favourites for the nomination include North West MEP, Afzal Khan, a former Lord Mayor of Manchester and local councillor Mike Amesbury, a former senior adviser to Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner.

Both men have long associations with the seat and would be strong, locally credible candidates, who, while not Corbynistas, are certainly not opponents of the leadership.

This makes the attempts to push Wheeler all the stranger.

Indeed, Amesbury helped pioneer Labour’s attack on the government’s grammar schools proposals and now serves a key campaign lieutenant for Andy Burnham.

The longlist is being drawn up today with shortlisting on Monday.

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Manchester Gorton hopefuls limber up

01/03/2017, 10:11:16 PM

There will need to be a big ring for all the hats that are being thrown into the contest to succeed Sir Gerald Kaufman as Labour MP for Manchester Gorton.

Already, a cast of hopefuls that would not disgrace a Cecil B DeMille epic are ‘letting it be known’ they are challenging for the seat, following Sir Gerald’s funeral in Leeds on Tuesday.

There is talk, however, that some candidates have been actively ‘working’ the seat in recent months while Kaufman was ailing.  Alas, such tasteless behaviour is becoming par for the course with Labour selection processes.

Of the serious candidates, much attention will be paid to Afzal Khan, an MEP for the North West and former Manchester Lord Mayor. It is not clear at this stage, however, if Labour’s National Executive would agree to him quitting Brussels to contest the seat.

The concern will be that it sets a precedent that might see other MEPs abandon their roles early in order to run for parliamentary selection processes ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU in 2019.

Other names in the frame include local councillors Julie Reid, Rabnawaz Akbar and Amina Lone, as well as Luthfer Rahman, the executive member for culture and leisure.

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post speculated that a pro-Corbyn hopeful, Sam Wheeler, a member of Momentum’s steering committee, is being pushed by the leadership. Although growing up in the Longsight area of the constituency, he is not well known to local members Uncut has spoken to.

A strong challenge will come from local councillor, Mike Amesbury. A well-liked figure in Labour politics, he is a former adviser to Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary and currently works for Andy Burnham on his campaign to become Manchester’s first metro mayor in May.

He came runner-up to Lucy Powell in the Manchester Central selection in 2012.

Nominations open next Monday and it’s expected that the by-election will be held on May 4 to coincide with the metro mayoral and county council elections.

With a 24,079 majority, the end result in Manchester Gorton shouldn’t give Jeremy Corbyn any sleepless nights.

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Is George Galloway planning another by-election spectacular?

08/11/2016, 10:52:27 AM

Our eye was caught by a series of tweets Galloway made this morning about Liverpool.

Why Liverpool? Well there’s likely to be a by-election there next May when Walton MP, Steve Rotheram, becomes, in all likelihood, the first-ever metro mayor for the Liverpool City Region.

This would mean a by election in his Liverpool Walton seat, probably held at the same time as the mayoral vote.

Is Galloway planning to stand? That’s the intriguing inference in a series of tweets he made this morning.

“All I ever hear from Merseyside MPs is bleating about themselves and how their angry constituents want rid of them” he wrote on Twitter, asking who will take responsibility for a quarter of Liverpool children growing up in poverty.

“What are the MPs even SAYING about it?” he demanded.

Does it amount to a coded declaration? Or is it sabre-rattling to chivvy the party into readmitting him? Or merely a digital stream of consciousness?

Despite Galloway’s raw charisma and previous form in using by-elections successfully, Labour has an enormous nigh-on impregnable 27,777 majority and fringe parties fared poorly in 2015.

Perhaps there are hopes of being back within the Labour fold in time to seek the selection? It certainly seems that George Galloway’s picture on Twitter has reverted to one from a time when he was in the Labour party. Coincidence?

Roll on next May…

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