Labour silent on non-battleground selections despite early GE risk and Lib Dem sniping

Another day, another Lib Dem snipe at Labour for dubbing somewhere a “non-battleground” seat – and another day’s frustration in many such Constituency Labour Parties they still lack candidates, despite Labour accelerating selections.

Last night it was MP Sarah Dyke, claiming on X:Labour have officially declared that #Glastonbury & #Somerton is a “non-battleground” (i.e. unwinnable) seat for them at the next election.”

Similar Lib Dem claims have been made elsewhere, following Labour’s published ‘non-battleground’ list as part of an advertisement for candidates.

They have proved a headache for  some local parties to rebut, with one activist telling LabourList they are “getting across and taking root”.

Some have had to issue public statements, including James Bull and Luke Viner, chairs of Ely and East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire, last month. They said some Lib Dems had “distorted ‘’non-battleground’ to mean ‘can’t win’. Nothing could be further from the truth”.

They added: “The battleground is re-electing Labour’s current MPs and gaining key marginals. Other constituencies in the country are therefore termed ‘non-battleground’. That doesn’t mean they can’t be won.”

Labour could win in some non-battlegrounds

As campaign group Labour Together noted recently, current polling suggests “a ‘Portillo moment’ could happen anywhere,” with Labour leading in both rural and coastal areas. 

LabourList has reported on one analysis suggesting dozens of ‘non-battleground’ seats could be winnable on current polling.

Meanwhiel designating and prioritising battlegrounds simply reflects the fact “legal spending limits and the limitations of our own fundraising mean we have a finite amount of money for organisers and direct mail,” as national executive commitee member Luke Akehurst wrote for LabourList yesterday.

“We only physically have one leader and one set of shadow cabinet members, there is a limit to how many seats they can visit.” And as Cambridgeshire activists also point out, the Lib Dems likely have their own far longer list of non-battlegrounds, albeit not public.

Where are non-battleground selections up to?

But as George McManus, a member of Bridlington and The Wolds CLP, told LabourList, it would be far easier to rebut Lib Dem suggestions Labour is not up for the fight if Labour had all its candidates in place.

It is now more than 10 weeks since Labour first advertised for non-battleground candidates, but the selection winners have still not been announced. It comes in spite of Labour simplifying its selection process last May to select more “quickly and efficiently”.

The process was accelerated again in November “in anticipation of a general election in spring 2024”, which senior party figures said last month they still expect to be as early as May.

Two sources told LabourList they expected announcements soon, but the party did not respond to our request for an update on the latest position.

Documents seen by LabourList show the process includes national and regional executive committee members provisionally shortlisting, due diligence checks being carried out, final panel shortlisting, and then either selection where there is one candidate or a hustings ideally within 14 days and then a vote.

Opportunity risks being ‘squandered’ – but party will want robust checks

One applicant told LabourList voiced their frustration at the “slow” process, saying an opportunity risked being “squandered” amid the most promising polling in years.

“It’s understandable to go to battlegrounds, but lots of people won’t. There’s been a ‘we’re not going to win here’ attitude locally, butt we’ll never win till that changes and it overshadows the idea we’re there to raise the Labour vote.”

The fact of not having a candidate alone “is being interpreted by some voters as meaning Labour isn’t interested in their votes,” with the Lib Dems highlighting the absence too, added McManus.

McManus argued Labour should “get our candidates in place now,” as even they can’t win, it will also help “keep the Tories pinned down” spending resources in their heartlands, and conversely help with organising campaigns with twinned battlegrounds.

However, Labour’s recent travails over two now-suspended candidates’ comments about Israel have prompted some questions over the robustness its selection process.

While frontbenchers have said the party can’t see “everything, everywhere” and acted after information became public, some will in the party will think it underlines the importance of ensuring further candidate selections are as rigorous as possible, however long it takes.



More from LabourList


We provide our content free, but providing daily Labour news, comment and analysis costs money. Small monthly donations from readers like you keep us going. To those already donating: thank you.

If you can afford it, can you join our supporters giving £10 a month?

And if you’re not already reading the best daily round-up of Labour news, analysis and comment…


Exit mobile version