Momentum-backed Mick Whitley picked to fight Frank Field in Birkenhead

Mick Whitley has been selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in the Merseyside constituency of Birkenhead, where ex-Labour MP Frank Field currently has a 25,514 vote majority.

Whitley was supported by the key Labour left organisations, campaign group Momentum and Unite the Union, as well as UNISON and shadow cabinet members. His selection campaign was run jointly by Unite North West and Momentum.

He had been shortlisted by the party along with local councillor Tony Norbury, local party chair Helen Robinson and Danielle Cornish-Spencer.

The newly selected candidate won on the first round with 224 votes, compared to 116 for Norbury, 52 for Cornish-Spencer and 39 for Robinson. The selection was conducted by an all-member postal ballot with 983 eligible members, producing a turnout of 472.

Whitley lives in Wirral South, just over the parliamentary constituency border. He was a car plant worker, then regional trade union officer and later regional secretary of Unite North West until 2017, when he left and became a community activist.

The selection became controversial last month when Theresa Griffin, a sitting MEP for the North West and chair of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, was not shortlisted. She had been endorsed by the GMB, CWU, TSSA and USDAW.

Corbynsceptics argued that Griffin, who supported Owen Smith for the leadership in 2016, was left off for factional reasons. No applicant is guaranteed to be on a shortlist unless they gain nominations from party branches amounting to a total 50% of the local membership.

Whitley will be going up against Frank Field, the incumbent, at the next election. Field, who resigned the Labour whip in 2018, announced on Friday that he plans to defend the seat as a Birkenhead Social Justice Party candidate.

Field quit Labour almost a year ago, citing his belief that the leadership was a “force for antisemitism” and the party had a “culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation”. He had lost a vote of no confidence by his local party the previous month.

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