Chaos has descended on Labour’s parliamentary candidate selection process for vacant seats – leaving party activists, applicants and members of the ruling body confused as to what is happening next.
When following up on reports that selections across the country had been paused as the party decided to focus on finalising trigger ballots for sitting Labour MPs, LabourList was told on Saturday that selections had not started and therefore were not paused.
But it would appear that selections had in fact already started in a number of seats, including Ilford South, which has not been suspended, and Blyth Valley, Liverpool West Derby and Nottingham East, where the process has been paused.
In Nottingham East, all ward branches have made nominations and shortlisting interviews were scheduled for Sunday. But the procedures secretary of the selection committee wrote to applicants:
“I have just been advised by the party that all ongoing parliamentary selections are to be paused with immediate effect. This means that the shortlisting interviews scheduled for Sunday are postponed until further notice. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused. This is out of the control of the selection committee. I will be back in touch as soon as I have any further updates.”
An applicant for Nottingham East – one of the eight who have been long-listed – has been informed by the local party that the plan is for Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) to impose a candidate on the seat.
Ann Black, who was a member of the NEC for 18 years until last year, pointed out: “Nottingham East was the only constituency to have a candidate imposed for 2010, not even an NEC shortlist. If it happens again they will be very very very unhappy.”
Matthew Shannon, secretary of a local party branch in Nottingham East, similarly tweeted: “All branches have already made their nominations, so it’s hard to justify not at least letting the process reach the shortlist stage. The last candidate imposed on Nottingham East was Chris Leslie, so I’m surprised the NEC don’t see how much bad feeling we would have over this.”
LabourList understands that Labour’s NEC has not been consulted as a whole, however. The decision to pause selections in a number of vacant seats was taken centrally by the party.
“As an NEC member I feel in the dark about everything,” one told LabourList. “LOTO [the leader’s office] just bypassing the NEC entirely but still trying to use us as cover for their controversial decisions. It’s scandalous if candidates are imposed when there is time for members to select.”
They added: “NEC members have been clear in meetings that members must have the right to select their candidates. If there is time to run the trigger process, there is time to let members pick their candidates.”
Another NEC member, who is on the Labour left, said they disagreed with the argument that selections should not continue because the NEC would have to interrupt them if there were an election in November. “No, because then some may be completed,” the NEC member said. “They should’ve started ages ago anyway.”
Jon Lansman, chair of Momentum and a CLP representative on the NEC, suggested to LabourList that he was disappointed by the “lack of clarity” but did not disagree with the decision to fast-track parliamentary selections amid expectation of an early election.
“I think the lack of clarity around how we are going to choose candidates to prepare for a snap election has not been helpful. We know one could come as soon as 22 November, or even sooner if the Supreme Court upholds the last Scottish ruling on prorogation,” Lansman said.
“At this point, I do think we have to have some kind of streamlined process to be ready. Party staff cannot oversee selections at the same time as preparing what we need to do to win. I know that may be very disappointing especially in seats we expect to win but getting Jeremy Corbyn into No10 and implementing our economic programme has to take top priority.”
The NEC is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.
LabourList has contacted the Labour Party for comment. This story will be updated as new information emerges.