Exclusive: Labour accused of breaching rules in Wakefield candidate selection

Labour has been accused of breaching its own rules for managing the choice of parliamentary candidates by limiting the number of local representatives allowed to participate in shortlisting for the Wakefield selection process, LabourList can reveal.

In an email seen by LabourList, the regional director of the North West Labour Party can be seen telling a member of the Wakefield Constituency Labour Party (CLP) executive that “there is one place available to the CLP on the panel to decide upon the longlist and the shortlist” in the process to select the candidate.

In a response also seen by LabourList, the local executive alleged that the instruction breached a recent change to the party’s rules but agreed to send just one rep.

According to a rule change passed at the annual Labour conference in 2021, a five-person panel including reps from the local party should undertake shortlisting when there is no time for a normal process – in the case of a by-election, for example.

The panel should comprise: three reps from the local party, appointed by the local executive committee; one representative from the regional executive committee, appointed by the chair and vice-chairs of the REC; and one national executive committee member. A NEC source heard that, despite members of the party’s national governing body asking, they were not told who else was on the panel.

The Wakefield selection process has been ongoing over the past week. Applications to stand as Labour’s candidate in the upcoming by-election triggered by the resignation of disgraced ex-Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan closed on Monday.

LabourList understands that the selection panel comprised three NEC members, an REC member and a CLP rep in line with procedural guidance issued by the NEC in October 2021 and other recent by-election selections: Old Bexley and Sidcup, North Shropshire and Erdington.

Labour determined late last year that the Momentum-backed rule change passed at conference was “inexpertly drafted” and requires NEC guidance to clarify it. According to a statement by NEC officers, the new guidance states:

“wherever the statutory timetable for nomination of candidates allows it – CLPs and the regional executive committee a say in the shortlisting process, with the final selection going to an all-member ballot”

Momentum said this morning: “Labour conference agreed a rule and the leadership have repeatedly overridden it. This has led to the blocking of all local candidates. This is the opposite of what Starmer promised in his leadership campaign. It’s dishonest and it’s anti-democratic.”

Labour narrowed down the candidates on Wednesday to a longlist of four: Kate Dearden, Simon Lightwood, Sam Howarth and Rachael Kenningham. Dearden and Lightwood, neither of whom live in the constituency, were shortlisted on Thusday. Both are due to take part in a hustings on Sunday, after which members will vote.

Lightwood is an NHS worker, a member of the Labour Party’s national policy forum and Yorkshire Labour’s regional board. He is also a former staffer for former Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh. Dearden works for trade union Community.

A Labour spokesperson told LabourList: “We’re really pleased to have two fantastic candidates on the shortlist with strong connections to the local community.

“On Sunday local members will make the final choice on a candidate who will be a strong champion for Wakefield and represent a fresh start against a backdrop of Tory failure. Wakefield has been badly let down by the Conservatives, and our focus is on winning the by-election and ensuring local people in Wakefield get the representation and the hard working MP they deserve.”

The leader’s office was concerned about some of Hemingway’s social media posts, but the national party leadership was accused of blocking the pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate and deputy leader of the local council.

In a now deleted post from 2018, Hemingway wrote that adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism would be “disastrous”. In another he called for the former leader of the party to have his membership reinstated shortly before Corbyn was readmitted.

“I’m a committed anti-racist and I think antisemitism is a scourge that should be eradicated,” Hemingway told HuffPost UK. “I’ve never hid the fact that I supported Jeremy Corbyn for leader and I voted for Rebecca Long-Bailey to be deputy… but I have always respected Keir’s right to lead the party.”

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