Coventry MP complains to party about “shambolic” selection process

Geoffrey Robinson, the MP for Coventry North West who is retiring at the next election, has submitted a formal complaint to Labour’s general secretary about the “shambolic and underhand nature” of the selection process in Coventry.

The MP informed party members in the local area today that he had complained to Jennie Formby and all members of Labour’s national executive committee about the selections in Coventry North West and Coventry South.

A number of local members are said to be “up in arms” over the Coventry North West longlist, which they argue overlooks local candidates who had declared their bids such as:

  • Ed Ruane – Works for Geoffrey Robinson MP; former council cabinet member and current councillor
  • Jayne Innes – Coventry councillor; former parliamentary candidate in Nuneaton and Birmingham Yardley
  • Adam Farrell – North Warwickshire councillor, Labour group leader; works in Jim Cunningham’s office
  • Jim O’Boyle – Coventry councillor; Coventry South Labour secretary; works in Jim Cunningham’s office

Coventry North West has not been sent the longlist in question – and neither has LabourList – but the constituency party apparently knows that no local councillor is on it because this detail has been leaked to a journalist.

At an emergency meeting of the local party on Thursday evening, a motion was passed arguing that the “exclusion of prominent local campaigners, councillor and former parliamentary candidates makes the list incomplete and denies members a real choice”.

The motion, which is also an open letter to Labour’s NEC, adds: “It makes the process antidemocratic, and irreparably damages the legitimacy and credibility of any chosen candidate. All such candidates deserve a fair hearing from members.”

It demands revision of the longlist in order to “campaign as a CLP for the election of a MP with legitimacy and credibility”. LabourList has been told that this motion passed with no votes against, as members across the factional spectrum backed it.

Coventry Momentum tweeted: “Local candidates in #Coventry need to be selected by local members. We do not want a list of candidates imposed on us, this is not what democracy looks like. This process needs immediate review. We are supposed to be a democratic party – @joe4labour (Coventry Momentum Chair)”.

Local members say they are concerned that if an “absentee” candidate is selected, they will struggle to hit the ground running in a snap election and local activists will be discouraged from campaigning in the constituency.

Coventry North West has always been Labour, and its predecessor seat Coventry North was also Labour. Geoffrey Robinson has a majority of 8,580, which increased from 4,509 in 2015.

But one member described the constituency as “not so safe that it’s in the bag”. It has only had two MPs since 1950, and Coventry Labour members are said to be keen to have someone with deep local roots in place.

Coventry South Labour members are also campaigning against its longlist and some have issued a statement titled ‘Stop the Stitch Up’. It reads: “A candidate parachuted in from outside will lead to a weak campaign, and will be immediately seized upon by the Tories, who are targeting Coventry South as a potential gain.”

It is understood that selections in both seats have been conducted in line with the Labour rules and procedures, and being a local councillor does not guarantee a place on a longlist to become an MP.

A Labour source said: “The purpose of longlists is to narrow the field so clearly not everyone can be on that list. This is a hotly contested seat with many high-quality applications and of course unsuccessful candidates will be disappointed. Obviously if we didn’t narrow them down, we would never pick a single candidate.”

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