Labour members in Southampton Itchen CLP (constituency Labour party) have contacted the SKWAWKBOX with concerns about the fairness of the process for shortlisting applicants to be their PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate), which closed last night.
Itchen members were given only three days’ notice for the branch/ward nomination meetings that were held last Saturday daytime – one after the other and all at the same venue. This meant that only a few people turned up – below 10% of the total members – and any who have to work on Saturdays were unable to participate. In most branches/wards the nominations were won on the basis of a total of only three or four votes.
Previous candidate Simon Letts, who lost in last year’s General Election, got 5 nominations. Complaints had been raised that Saturday morning meetings were not fair on working class members who have to work on Saturday, but they went ahead anyway.
Letts – who called for Corbyn to resign during the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ – was therefore automatically shortlisted on the votes of what may have been as few as 5% of the membership. Mandatory rules then meant that both female candidates and a BAME (black/Asian/minority ethnic) candidate were also automatically shortlisted.
In practice, of seventeen applicants most never stood a realistic chance of shortlisting. Seven nomination meetings in one place on the same day with only three days’ notice – a notice period that recently caused the election of a new National Policy Forum chair to be cancelled – seems likely to favour previous candidates with an entrenched power base in the CLP.
Under National Executive Committee guidelines the responsible NEC-appointed representative on the selection committee – in this case, the Chair of the right-wing Labour First group – should decide disputes or complaints but it seems that so far the Progress-linked regional director has fielded and rejected complaints.
Complaints have now been raised with senior Labour figures, but the nomination period ended at midnight last night and the interviews for the final shortlist will now start, with selection hustings scheduled for 10 March. Nonetheless, the process should be suspended and re-run in accordance with the rules. The SKWAWKBOX understands that if this is not done, at least one of the candidates is planning to apply for a court injunction to force the suspension.
If the selection process is not suspended and the final shortlisting hustings proceeds as scheduled, it’s vital that local members turn out in force on 10 March – and cast their vote when the ballot opens – to ensure that Itchen is not saddled again with one of the right-wing options on offer.
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