Party refuses to restart selection process for West of England mayoral candidate

Elliot Chappell

The south west regional office of the Labour Party has rejected calls to restart the selection process for the West of England mayoral candidate after concerns were raised about the shortlist.

Regional director Phil Gaskin emailed members on Monday in response to a letter sent to Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) last month. Local members had complained after only two people were shortlisted by the selection committee.

Helen Godwin and Dan Norris were shortlisted but others who received more nominations were dropped, including two current Labour councillors who also stood for the party as parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general election.

Gaskin has now told members that although the regional office had been given an out-of-date version of procedures and “minor irregularities” had occurred, “none of the irregularities which occurred had any material impact on the final shortlist”.

The regional party said that the selection committee were required to review all applicants with at least two nominations by the Labour Party’s rules, but said that the shortlist is ultimately “determined on interview”.

The party wrote: “Whilst parliamentary selection procedures do allow that should an individual applicant/candidate achieve a specific number of nominations that they are automatically shortlisted, there is no such facility/allowance within the rules and procedural guidelines for mayoral selections.

“The rules clearly state… that ‘the selection committee shall consider all applicants receiving at least two nominations’. All applicants who received at least two nominations were considered at interview.

“However, at no point do the procedures allow for any additional weighting of nominations. As the procedures clearly set out the shortlist is determined on interview, and the decision of the selection committee is final and binding.”

The response has prompted concerns from members that there will be no change to the shortlist. One member of a local party executive told LabourList: “The main issue for us is that six candidates were considered and four were rejected.

“It would seem unfortunate that four out of six candidates were considered not good enough to go forward to the ballot for selection by members, when one of them was the previous candidate and two of them are current councillors and were parliamentary candidates as recently as last December.

“What has changed between them being suitable to be parliamentary candidates in December or the previous candidate in 2016 and now?”

One “minor irregularity” cited was not letting local Labour groups make nominations. Gaskin wrote that after reviewing this with “relevant key stakeholders” including the NEC, it has now been decided that they have another 14 days to do so.

But a document responding to the concerns raised by members point-by-point and offering a clarification on the Labour Party’s rules sent with the email stated: “Supporting nominations do not count towards the shortlisting process.”

The local member added: “They’re allowing supporting nominations to be made by Labour groups that they already say aren’t of material relevance. They’re moving the focus to a now irrelevant clause to make it look like they are being scrupulous, while attempting to rule out a more significant review.”

The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.

Below is the full text of the email sent to members.

Dear Colleague,

As you will know the shortlist for the West of England Metro-Mayoral Selection was announced on Thursday 16th July.

Since that time there have been a number of communications expressing concern in respect of how the procedure was managed and the final shortlist was determined.

The Labour Party General Secretary has conducted a review of these concerns. During the review it was found that Regional Office had been inadvertently provided with an out of date version of the selection procedures (by the Governance and Legal Unit) and that therefore there had been some small/minor administrative irregularities. It should be pointed out that none of the irregularities which occurred had any material impact on the final shortlist. You will find attached to this email an outline of the main concerns and an explanation as to why they were found to be without merit.

However, one omission from the procedures provided to Regional Office which do appear in the more recent version was the point which allows Labour groups from within the combined authority area to make supportive nominations, as below.

      “Each principal Labour group within the combined authority area may make a supporting nomination of one or two candidates from the applications received. If making two nominations, at least one nomination must be a woman. Supporting nominations do not count towards the shortlisting process.”

As a result of this omission, and as a demonstration of good faith, the general secretary has discussed this with relevant key stakeholders internally (including the NEC) and it has been determined that a window of 14 days should be allowed for Labour groups within the combined authority area to consider if they wish to make supportive nominations. Labour group officers will be provided with all appropriate information on how to consider if they wish to make supporting nominations, and the process for making a supporting nomination tomorrow morning (Tuesday 4th August). The deadline for receipt of a Labour group supporting nomination will be 4pm on Tuesday 18th August.

Once, and if, any Labour goup supporting nominations are received the selection committee/interview panel will be invited to consider if they wish to consider any relevant next steps, including the possibility of re-opening interviews. Those candidates already shortlisted will not be affected by this and will remain shortlisted.

We apologise for any confusion and inconvenience which this may have caused.

As you will see from the attached outline of queries some concerns were expressed that full candidate application forms were not circulated along with candidate statements. As stated previously this had no material impact on the process, however we will forward you full candidate application forms and candidate statements in due course for your records.

Many thanks,

Phil Gaskin
Regional director

Below is the clarification of the rules sent with the email to members.

As you will see from the email communication a course of action in respect of Labour group supporting nominations has been determined by the Labour Party general secretary and chair of the NEC organisational sub-committee.

We also wanted to provide an outline of other concerns/complaints which have been submitted and to provide an explanation on these matters. As below.

Q1. Why were the full candidate application forms not provided (along with candidate statements) to CLP’s/affiliated organisations for nomination meetings.

Clarification: There is no requirement in the selection procedures for full application forms to be circulated to members, and ALL candidate statements were appropriately circulated. Full application forms and statements will be provided to CLP’s/Affiliated Organisations for their records.

Q2. How and by who was the selection committee (interview panel) formed, and was it done correctly.

Clarification: Although regional office was provided with an out of date version of the selection procedures they were properly advised on its’ composition (as below). The NEC representatives were appointed by the NEC. The REC representatives were appointed by the regional director. The Labour frontbench and/or Parliamentary Labour Party representative was appointed by the office of the leader of the opposition.

    2. The Selection Panel

    a. There shall be a selection panel comprising an equal number of regional board and NEC members, and a member of the Labour frontbench and/or Parliamentary Labour Party, whose function shall be to:

    • receive reports on the conduct of election from the returning officer;
    • determine matters referred for decision by the returning officer;
    • select a shortlist of candidates from the nominations received;
    • receive a statement of selection campaign income and expenditure from each shortlisted candidate.

    b. The panel shall be chaired by a member from the NEC.

    c. The panel will reflect the usual balance of stakeholders agreed by the NEC for all such selection panels.
    No person seeking selection for mayor shall be eligible to serve on a selection panel.

Q3. Why were the selection committee not provided with information in respect of the number of nominations (CLP/affiliated organisations) for each individual candidate.

Clarification: There is no requirement within the procedures for this information to be provided. Had such a request been received either from the chair or any other member of the selection committee, it would of course have been provided. There was no such request.

Q4. How were the number of nominations for each individual candidate weighted and accounted for at shortlist interview. Why were the candidates who received the higher number(s) of CLP/affiliate nominations not shortlisted or considered more favourably over those with a smaller number of nominations. (This question has triggered more queries and complaints than any other issue).

Clarification; Whilst parliamentary selection procedures do allow that should an individual applicant/candidate achieve a specific number of nominations that they are automatically short-listed, there is no such facility/allowance within the rules and procedural guidelines for mayoral selections. The rules clearly state (as below) that “the selection committee shall consider all applicants receiving at least two nominations”.

All applicants who received at least two nominations were considered at interview. However, at no point do the procedures allow for any additional weighting of nominations. As the procedures clearly set out the short-list is determined on interview, and the decision of the selection committee is final and binding.

    8. The shortlisting process

    a. The selection committee shall consider all applicants receiving at least two nominations: either from Constituency Labour Parties wholly or partly within the combined authority area, or affiliates, or a combination of both.

    b. The selection committee shall interview all or some (a long-list) of those people so nominated.

    c. If BAME or women candidates have been validly nominated, the selection committee shall interview at least one BAME candidate and at least one woman candidate. If no BAME or women candidates have been nominated then the selection committee may decide to interview a candidate from among any BAME candidates or women candidates who have submitted an application.

    d. The selection committee shall determine the shortlist having interviewed the candidates as set out above.

    e. The decision of the selection committee in respect of the shortlist is final and not subject to appeal.

Q5. There have been concerns that the final short-list did not sufficiently demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Clarification: The selection committee did consider at interview a BAME applicant who had not received any CLP/affiliated organisation nominations as in point 8C above.

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