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The party needs to tread carefully replacing its estranged MPs

05/02/2019, 09:52:03 PM

How is Labour handling the tricky round of parliamentary selections in seats where a sitting MP has either quit or been expelled from the party?

This is always a tricky subject. Local parties can become deeply divided over the fate of their estranged MP (who can often be like family to long-serving members) while party chiefs need to make a careful judgement about the individual seat and whether claims of a personal following for the MP might translate into a personal vote if they were to stand as an independent.

The received wisdom, however, is that independents struggle, regardless of whether they are sitting MPs. In the 2017 election, Simon Danczuk received just 1.8% of the vote in his Rochdale seat, after he was expelled from the party.

Still, in a marginal seat the possibility that a former MP might stand, clattering into a new candidate and gifting the seat to another party, is very real. So how is Labour responding in those seats with MPs that have resigned or been forced out of the party?

In Sheffield Hallam, the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Olivia Blake, was recently selected as a replacement for the suspended Jared O’Mara from an all-women shortlist (AWS). This made sense, given the allegations against O’Mara for his juvenile sexist postings on social media. (A hipster university seat, Hallam is reputed to have the highest number of people with a Phd in the country).

However In Barrow and Furness, where John Woodcock resigned from the party following allegations – (and they are just allegations) of sexual misconduct – the party did not impose an AWS, selecting former soldier and Network Rail employee, Chris Altree, from an open shortlist on Saturday to defend Labour’s wafer-thin majority of just 209.

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Dan Jarvis under fire for lack of progress as South Yorks Metro Mayor

28/11/2018, 04:51:24 PM

South Yorkshire’s Labour Metro Mayor, Dan Jarvis, has come in for coruscating criticism by a leading Sheffield Labour councillor for making little headway in his role, six months after he was elected.

In an exclusive interview with the Sheffield Star, Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield’s Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, has voiced criticisms of Jarvis that have been gaining ground in Labour circles for some time.

The four councils that make up South Yorkshire – Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster – all Labour controlled – remain deadlocked over whether to accept the Government’s devo deal, with Doncaster and Barnsley refusing to ratify the agreement, preferring a county-wide devolution model instead.

Coun Iqbal said: “We have a Mayor that can change people’s lives and the destiny of the region but he has no powers or money and this can’t carry on.

“If I was not doing my job, I would expect to be sacked. I would expect my boss to say, ‘you have been in post for six months, this is what we agreed – what have you have achieved?’

“If I had not delivered I would expect them to say ‘clear your desk on your way out.’ That would happen in any other job. That’s how the world works.”

He added: “Dan has spoken about homelessness but his brief is the devolution deal. He put himself forward for this job to represent the region.

“The other Mayors were given the funding but we now have to compete with everywhere else for it, which is another frustration.”

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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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