Labour council leader excluded from standing as parliamentary candidate

Elliot Chappell

The Labour leader of Stroud District Council has been taken out of the running in the process to select the next parliamentary candidate for Stroud after the party raised concerns about historic social media activity.

Doina Cornell, whose candidacy had the backing of trade unions Unite, CWU, FBU, TSSA, ASLEF and USDAW, revealed today that party’s panel had “made the decision not to include me on the longlist” despite her being “the local candidate with a long track record of making the lives of people in Stroud better”.

Guidance approved by the national executive committee (NEC) earlier this year scrapped the automatic right of affiliated organisations – such as unions – to guarantee places for their preferred candidates on selection shortlists.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Labour Party representatives who have no local connection, and without consultation with local party members regarding my suitability, have decided to remove me from the contest on what I can only describe as spurious and partisan reasons,” Cornell said in a statement today.

“I know how frustrating this is for local members who wanted to take part in the full democratic process of selecting their prospective MPs. I ask all members, however frustrated or angry they are, to make their voices heard and ask the Labour Party to reverse this decision and let the members decide who will best represent them.”

The guidance approved in January also removed powers from local parties so that longlists are now determined by national and regional board members. Previous selection committees had been made up of the local secretary and treasurer, an NEC rep, two affiliate reps and others elected by the local party.

A Labour spokesperson told LabourList: “Voters deserve the best representatives for their communities in parliament, and with Keir Starmer’s leadership Labour expects our prospective candidates to uphold the highest of standards.”

Cornell has represented the party as an elected official since 2011, when she was first elected to Cam Parish Council, before going on to become the Labour councillor for Dursley on Stroud District Council. Cornell is also a Co-op Party councillor.

She was shortlisted in the process to select the parliamentary candidate for Gloucester in 2017, but lost out to Fran Boait. Cornell was elected as the leader of Stroud District Council in 2018.

Deputy leader of the local Labour group, councillor Robin Layfield, told LabourList: “The process has been shambolic. A candidate with six union nominations should be automatically longlisted – this was agreed at conference last year.

“That hasn’t happened. There has been what looks like smudging of the rules, so now the longlist has been reduced to two candidates and the selection process is being accelerated, skipping branch nominations altogether and giving the other – relatively unknown candidate – little to no time to campaign.”

After receiving applications to stand, the party normally produces a longlist that is then reduced to a shortlist. The party has, however, announced a shortlist of two comprised of: Clare Moody and Simon Opher. A final ballot of the local membership, to determine who will represent the party, will take place following a hustings.

Stroud has changed hands between the Conservatives and Labour a number of times in the recent past. Having been won by Labour in 1997, the seat was retained by the party until 2010. David Drew regained Stroud for Labour in 2017 before losing in 2019 to the Tories, who have now a majority of 3,840.

The party was accused of breaching its own selection rules in relation to process to pick the Wakefield by-election candidate last month, leading to the executive committee of the local party to resign in protest after three local candidates were not included in the shortlist put to the membership.

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