Six key takeaways from the first stage of Labour parliamentary selections

Katie Neame

34 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have chosen their candidates for the next election. As LabourList revealed earlier this year, Labour’s governing body agreed 35 seats in which the local party would be allowed to begin the process early – in two separate tranches of 14 and 21 CLPs. Two of those 35 seats, Birmingham Northfield and Carlisle, have not selected their candidates – while local members in Derby North, which was not included on the lists released by the party, have completed their selection process, bringing the total number of candidates selected to 34.

As the dust settles, here are six key takeaways from the selections so far…

1. Pro-Keir Starmer candidates have fared well

The candidates selected in those 34 seats largely align with the current Labour leadership politically; several candidates have publicly endorsed the pro-Keir Starmer Labour to Win slate of candidates in the NEC elections, including Cities of London and Westminster candidate Rachel Blake and Gedling candidate Michael Payne (who stood for election to the NEC on the Labour to Win slate in 2020).

A number of candidates have received the backing of members of the shadow cabinet, such as Ipswich candidate Jack Abbott and Milton Keynes South candidate Emily Darlington (who were both endorsed by Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy), Norwich North candidate Alice MacDonald (who was backed by Shadow International Development Secretary Preet Gill), Plymouth Moor View candidate Gareth Derrick (who received the backing of Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds) and Bassetlaw candidate Jo White (who was backed by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves).

2. The left has had its moments, but few and far between

The most overtly left-wing candidate selected so far is Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and Woodford Green, who will contest the seat for a second time, having come within 1,262 votes of toppling incumbent Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith in 2019. Reacting to Shaheen’s selection, a Momentum spokesperson said: “The Labour leadership has pulled every trick in the book to block socialists from standing for Labour, undermining the rights of local parties, councillors and trade unions in the process. But in Chingford and Woodford Green, Labour members knew that their community needed a committed socialist and anti-racist in Faiza Shaheen.”

Simon Opher, the candidate selected by Labour members in Stroud, is something of an unknown quantity. The local GP was selected from a shortlist of two after left-wing candidate Doina Cornell was taken out of the running after concerns over her social media activity had been raised. Cornell was, at the time, leader of Stroud council but has since stepped down from the role and resigned her Labour membership. Announcing her resignation as council leader, she accused the central leadership of being “governed by a narrow factionalism” that “does not trust its local members”. Ahead of his selection, Opher said he was “surprised and disappointed” that Cornell had been left off the shortlist.

3. There has been a notable – but not yet drastic – fall in women being selected

One of the busier days for selections was July 16th, which saw five candidates selected, four of whom were men. Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi tweeted: “Is today ‘a no women’ kind of day? Some amazing women standing for Labour, but let’s not let the bias win. We need [all-women shortlists].” The overall gender imbalance for the 34 seats that have so far selected candidates has been significantly less dramatic than that one day would suggest, with 16 female candidates selected and 18 male. However, at 47%, the proportion of female candidates is below the current proportion of female MPs in the parliamentary Labour Party (51%) and below the proportion of Labour candidates at the 2019 election who were women (53.1%) – an all-time high.

4. BAME representation is low – and a cause for concern

A greater cause for concern is the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates so far selected. Three candidates from BAME backgrounds have been selected – Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and Woodford Green, Harpreet Uppal in Huddersfield and Satvir Kaur in Southampton Test. At less than 9%, this is significantly down on the proportion of the 2019 intake that came from BAME backgrounds. 41 of the 202 Labour MPs elected in 2019 came from BAME backgrounds, equivalent to 20% of the PLP.

5. Being local helps

Serving as a councillor continues to be a central part of many parliamentary candidates’ journeys; 26 of the candidates so far selected are current or former councillors. Many of them represent or have represented wards within the constituency in which they have been selected to stand, including Jayne Kirkham in Truro and Falmouth, Watford candidate Matt Turmaine and Darren Paffey in Southampton Itchen. Others represent or have represented wards in other parts of the country, most notably London. Candidates in seats outside of London who currently serve as councillors on one of the capital’s councils include Steve Race in Exeter, Luke Charters in York Outer and Helena Dollimore in Hastings and Rye.

Being deemed to be ‘local’ – though arguably quite a subjective concept – has also been a feature of the candidates selected so far. The vast majority of the candidates have positioned themselves as local to some degree, though this ranges from having spent some of their childhood in the local area to having served for many years on the local council. The difficulty of defining ‘local’ in this context is epitomised by the minor row that erupted during the selection process in Norwich North. Southwark councillor Alice MacDonald, who was eventually selected as the candidate, had talked up her local links during the campaign, highlighting that she grew up in the Norfolk area and that her mother was previously leader of West Norfolk Council. But a local member reportedly suggested that MacDonald’s knowledge of the constituency would “fit on a postage stamp”.

6. If at first they don’t succeed, many try again

Another interesting dynamic is the number of candidates who have stood for election before – both successfully and unsuccessfully. 20 of the 34 candidates have stood for election before, and seven of them are standing in a seat they have previously contested. Four are former MPs: James Frith in Bury North, Gareth Snell in Stoke-on-Trent Central, Jo Platt in Leigh and Heidi Alexander in South Swindon. All of those four apart from Alexander are standing for re-election to the seat they lost in 2019. Alexander previously represented Lewisham East but stood down in 2018 to become London mayor Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.

Below is the full list of candidates selected.

Bassetlaw – Jo White
Bishop Auckland – Sam Rushworth
Burnley – Oliver Ryan
Bury North – James Frith
Chingford and Woodford Green – Faiza Shaheen
Cities of London and Westminster – Rachel Blake
Derby North – Catherine Atkinson
Doncaster Central – Sally Jameson
Dover – Mike Tapp
Erewash – Adam Thompson
Exeter – Steve Race
Gedling – Michael Payne
Hartlepool – Jonathan Brash
Hastings and Rye – Helena Dollimore
Hendon – David Pinto-Duschinsky
Huddersfield – Harpreet Uppal
Ipswich – Jack Abbott
Leigh – Jo Platt
Milton Keynes South – Emily Darlington
Norwich North – Alice MacDonald
Penistone and Stocksbridge – Marie Tidball
Peterborough – Andrew Pakes
Plymouth Moor View – Gareth Derrick
Shipley – Anna Dixon
South Swindon – Heidi Alexander
Southampton Itchen – Darren Paffey
Southampton Test – Satvir Kaur
Stoke-on-Trent Central – Gareth Snell
Stretford and Urmston – Andrew Western
Stroud – Simon Opher
Truro and Falmouth – Jayne Kirkham
Warrington South – Sarah Hall
Watford – Matt Turmaine
York Outer – Luke Charters

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