Labour’s Stockport selection race gets heated

Labour’s parliamentary selection contest in Stockport has become particularly heated after a local councillor was left off the shortlist, which prompted accusations of a “stitch up”. The constituency party is holding a selection process as local MP Ann Coffey quit Labour earlier this year to join Change UK. The seat has been red since 1992, when Coffey won it from the Tories, and she enjoys a majority of 14,477 votes – making this a high priority for any faction.

The controversy in Stockport Labour kicked off when the party’s national executive committee (NEC) decided that there would be an open selection despite local members having voted in favour of an all-women shortlist (AWS). Then local councillor David Sedgwick was not shortlisted by the selection committee – one friend said that this was on the basis that he allegedly lied in his interview, but that reason is not verified.

Supporters of Sedgwick cite his endorsement by the Jewish Labour Movement and Co-operative Party, nomination by the largest branch in Stockport and work securing Stockport Council for Labour as reasons for which he should have been on the shortlist. It was pointed out that one shortlisted candidate, Mike Cain, was not nominated by his own branch. The situation has been compared by allies to Theresa Griffin MEP recently being missed off the shortlist in Birkenhead, though “not as obvious” in the words of one local member. 

Even those on the left, within Momentum, they are raging at what’s gone on,” one member told LabourList. “They wanted a wide choice of candidates, a fair and proper process. A lot of people in the constituency are deeply unhappy.” A complaint has been sent to general secretary Jennie Formby.

Commenting on the situation, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “This is an ongoing process. We are satisfied that the shortlisting process has been conducted in line with the party’s rules and procedures.” LabourList understands that applicants are only guaranteed to be on shortlists if they gain nominations from party branches amounting to a total 50% of the local membership.

The frontrunner of the contest is Navendu Mishra, a member of Labour’s national ruling body and a trade union organiser. He is backed by nine trade unions (from Unite to Usdaw), Momentum, Owen Jones, John McDonnell and other shadow cabinet members, and was nominated by five of the six party branches. His campaign launch video was widely praised on Twitter.

Mishra is a firm Corbynite, but concerned local members are keen to stress that complaints over the shortlisting aren’t exclusively coming from Corbynsceptics. Julie Reid, widely seen as Mishra’s main rival, voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 and 2016 leadership election and is a Momentum member.

Reid was told that she had breached the candidate code of conduct after sending out a campaign email that the regional board NEC rep regarded as “disparaging material”, which is not allowed. The email didn’t explicitly name Mishra but described her opposition as a “‘Yes Man’ who’ll just do as he’s told by a faction of the party”. She has been put on a “final warning”.

Further controversy has been sparked this week after social media posts by Reid were discovered, including one from 2015 that shared a list of “banks owned/controlled by the Rothschild family” – a subject often linked to antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories.

LabourList understands that the matter is being taken up by Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, who recently suspended Majid Dar – the brother of NEC member Yasmine Dar – from the local Labour group over alleged antisemitic posts.

Mishra has told LabourList that he is running a positive campaign and worked hard for branch nominations. “Things get heated in all parliamentary selections,” the NEC member said, noting that a “couple of members” have made comments “with racial undertones”. He intends to submit a complaint to the party about “vile messages” he has received.

Voting will be conducted exclusively via postal ballots. Stockport Labour members have until August 9th to return their ballots, and the count will be held on Saturday 10th August.

The Stockport shortlist:

  • Navendu Mishra (@NavPMishra) – trade union organiser, NEC member
  • Julie Reid (@CllrJulieReid) – teacher, local councillor in Manchester
  • Fiona Dent (@FionaDentLabour) – former councillor in Runnymede and 2017 parliamentary candidate in Runnymede & Weybridge
  • Mike Cain – disability activist, CLP disability officer

More from LabourList