Labour left secures more defector seats in selection contests

Sienna Rodgers

The Labour left has secured further gains in so-called ‘defector seats’, winning the parliamentary candidate selection races of both Bury South and Penistone and Stocksbridge on Thursday.

Candidates favoured by the party leadership have now been selected in all defector seats in the latest round of contests. Of those that concluded over the last few weeks, Mick Whitley won in Frank Field’s Birkenhead, Nav Mishra in Ann Coffey’s Stockport and Sam Tarry in Mike Gapes’ Ilford South.

Earlier defector seat selection races saw Corbynite trade unionist Chris Altree picked in Barrow and Furness to replace John Woodcock, and Labour left-winger Olivia Blake chosen to replace Jared O’Mara in Sheffield Hallam.

Enfield North (Joan Ryan), Liverpool Wavertree (Luciana Berger), Nottingham East (Chris Leslie), Luton South (Gavin Shuker), Streatham (Chuka Umunna), Dudley North (Ian Austin) and Liverpool Riverside (Louise Ellman) have not yet completed their selection processes.

Bury South

Lucy Burke has been selected as Labour’s new parliamentary candidate for Bury South. She will seek to replace ex-Labour MP Ivan Lewis as the representative of the Greater Manchester seat at the next election.

Local party secretary Burke – a member of soft left group Open Labour – was informally backed in her selection bid by Bury Momentum, as well as being endorsed by Unite, Unison North West, GMB, FBU, BFAWU and ASLEF.

She won on the first round, beating two other shortlisted candidates – Fatima Mahmood, a Labour organiser in the North West, and Lancashire councillor Gillian Oliver – at a meeting on Thursday evening with a turnout of 160 members.

Bury South is not a safe seat for Labour, as Lewis currently has a majority of 5,965. The last time it returned a Tory MP was in 1992, when Labour’s Hazel Blears came 788 votes behind David Sumberg, who served as the MP from 1983 to 1997.

Penistone and Stocksbridge

Francyne Johnson was also selected as a Labour parliamentary candidate on Thursday evening, with party members in Penistone and Stocksbridge picking her to replace defector Angela Smith.

Johnson, a youth and community worker and local councillor, was endorsed by Jon Trickett, Richard Burgon and Momentum Sheffield, as well as trade unions Unite, GMB, ASLEF and BFAWU.

Her ground campaign was run by Unite, particularly the trade union’s political officer Roisin McDermott and regional officer Mark Fieldhouse.

Angela Smith quit Labour in February 2019, along with six other MPs, to form The Independent Group. This became Change UK, but Smith later joined The Independents, and now sits as a Liberal Democrat.

Penistone and Stocksbridge is a marginal seat, with a Labour majority of just 1,322 as of 2017. Smith will not be standing in Penistone at the next election, having announced plans to contest Altrincham and Sale West instead.

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