The Cities of London and Westminster selection was opened up to fresh applications after Steven Saxby, who was picked for the key marginal seat in 2018, withdrew his candidacy. That decision followed his suspension from the party pending investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. With Tory incumbent Mark Field’s small majority and Chuka Umunna also challenging the seat as a Lib Dem, this seat is set to attract lots of attention at the next general election.
There are rumours that Labour could decide to apply an all-women shortlist, which could be an authoritative challenge to Field (who was shown to have grabbed a peaceful female protester by the neck at an event earlier in the year) and neutralise the events around Steven Saxby’s withdrawal (linked as it is to a sexual harassment complaint). But this would really be taken as an insult by those members in nearby Vauxhall who are annoyed that their selection is open despite the local party voting in favour of an AWS.
It is widely thought that there will be pressure to pick a BAME candidate for Two Cities due to the very small number of BAME candidates selected so far – and particularly after the Jas Athwal suspension in Ilford South, which saw BAME PLP and other groups raise concerns.
There has been talk of Ibrahim Dogus – currently in the running to replace Kate Hoey in Vauxhall – now taking an interest in Two Cities. As a candidate there in 2017, he helped to cut Field’s majority from 9,671 to 3,148. However, the Lambeth councillor tells LabourList that he is focussing on his home seat of Vauxhall and has “no intention of applying for other seats”.
Below are the big names doing the rounds so far. They are not all confirmed as applicants. This list will be updated as new tips come in and the situation develops…
Liza Begum – The local party’s vice-chair (campaigns) led a campaign to save Walden House – where she has always lived – from demolition. The residents will now be offered a right of return. She works as an NHS personal assistant.
Grace Blakeley – The young author, politics and economics media commentator and research fellow at influential think tank IPPR is thought to be interested. She is a member of Labour’s national policy forum.
Pancho Lewis – Local councillor, the first even Labour one for West End ward. Works for Too Good To Go, an anti-food waste business, and serves as shadow cabinet member for the environment.
Paul Mason – Another economist and New Statesman regular, but this one is passionately opposed to any kind of Brexit. The former BBC journalist apparently told the audience at Wimbledon Book Festival that he wanted to run against Chuka Umunna.
Khaled Moyeed – The Haringey councillor and current member of Labour’s top disciplinary body, the national constitutional committee (NCC) is a solicitor by trade. He was longlisted for Two Cities in 2017. Apparently approached by local members; confirmed as an applicant.
Gordon Nardell – The barrister, a QC who took silk in 2010, quit as Labour’s inaugural general counsel in July after setting up its in-house legal services operation. A former Labour councillor in Southwark, he made the shortlist for Two Cities in 2018.
Laura Parker – Anti-Brexit campaigner and strong supporter of a fresh EU referendum. The Momentum national coordinator has been going for Enfield North, but she didn’t receive any branch nominations there and LabourList hears she has applied for this newly opened selection. She lives in Vauxhall, over the river.
Claudia Webbe – Member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) and Islington councillor. She ran unsuccessfully for selection in Lewisham East last year and is widely known to be looking for a parliamentary seat. Her council ward borders Two Cities and one source says she is “quite popular with members there”, though she may prefer to be selected somewhere more winnable. As an NEC officer, she is well-positioned to secure a good seat.
Christian Wolmar – The rail expert, who contested Richmond Park for Labour in 2016, was very narrowly beaten in the original selection race in Two Cities last year. He lost by just eight votes to Steven Saxby. He now tells LabourList: “I feel I am the right person with enough experience and media savvy to go up against Chuka.”
Liam Young – The young activist and author is known to have been approached by local members and encouraged to apply. But he has been shortlisted for the London Assembly selections (as Webbe also has), and may choose to pursue GLA exclusively.