Exclusive: the panel that barred Rothery – and selected new shortlist – and panellists’ links to MPs and north-west ‘fixers’

Plus Labour’s peculiar response to SKWAWKBOX enquiries to MPs

Anna Rothery

The SKWAWKBOX can exclusively reveal the panel that barred Anna Rothery from the selection process to decide who will stand for Labour in May’s Liverpool mayoral contest – and selected the shortlist of two to replace her and two other women candidates.

And SKWAWKBOX can also show the links that three out of five have to both:

  • well-known north-west fixers with a track record of influencing selections and was involved in the campaign of one of Rothery’s rivals and;
  • the Liverpool MPs who on Wednesday evening both tweeted ‘twin’ statements that have been attacked for both failing to show solidarity with Rothery and for calling for a return to a system in which the city’s members would be deprived of any say in who would represent them at the head of the city’s council.

According to Labour sources, the panel of five who decided to bin the current shortlist and start the process again – leading to the shortlisting of a close associate of a local MP and a 25-year-old right-wing councillor – were:

  • Leigh Drennan
  • Lotte Boumhela
  • Tom Warnett
  • ‘centrist’ National Executive Committee (NEC) member Alice Perry
  • Wendy Nichols, a Unison member of Labour’s NEC and considered on the right of the party

Three of the five panellists have close links to the same group of MPs and fixers.

Leigh Drennan

Manchester councillor and north-west regional chair Drennan is said to be close to ‘fixers’ Alex Halligan and Damian Bailey, who have been heavily involved in securing the selection of a number of north-west MPs, including several on Merseyside. According to Labour insiders, the MPs in whose selection Halligan and Bailey played a pivotal role include Liverpool members Paula Barker and Kim Johnson, who both tweeted statements failing to condemn Rothery’s deselection.

Both Halligan and Bailey now work for MPs whose selection they helped secure. Bailey works as a senior staffer for Liverpool Wavertree MP Barker.

The pair also unsuccessfully backed Liverpool councillor Angela Coleman for selection as West Derby’s 2019 parliamentary candidate. The selection was won by Ian Byrne, now one of the stars of Labour’s back benches. Coleman now also works for Barker.

Lotte Boumhela

Boumhela is reported to be close to Damian Bailey, who works for Paula Barker and is believed by Labour insiders to have been linked to the campaign of Ann O’Byrne, one of Rothery’s rivals. Boumhela’s sister works for Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson.

Tom Warnett

Warnett, like Nichols, is a union NEC member. He was campaign manager for Sam Tarry MP, who until recently worked closely with Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner and is said to still be a close associate. Warnett also previously worked for Nick Parrott, Rayner’s chief of staff. Rayner was close friends with Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, who used to employ Alex Halligan.

The ‘fixers

Alex Halligan and Damian Bailey are well known in Labour and union circles, especially but not exclusively in the north-west of England. They have been accused of a ‘no holds barred’ approach to getting their preferred candidates selected for parliamentary and other seats and to eliminating rivals.

Although Manchester-based, both were involved in securing the selection of candidates who are now Labour MPs in Liverpool – and have been said to have supported O’Byrne’s bid to be selected as Labour’s mayoral candidate.

Bailey now works for Paula Barker, whose selection he helped secure. Halligan worked for Rebecca Long-Bailey but is now employed by Nav Mishra, the Stockport MP whose selection Halligan and Bailey promoted.

The MPs’ tweets

Both Paula Barker and Kim Johnson pitched in on the mayoral debate last week with very similar tweeted statements in response to the scrapping of the original shortlist. Both were heavily criticised for a failure to show solidarity with Rothery. Johnson’s statement said that she didn’t know why the candidates had been barred, but also claimed to be certain that racism was not a factor – and advocated scrapping the mayoral model altogether, which supporters of former mayoral candidate Ann O’Byrne tried and failed to do last weekend. Such a switch would not only mean that the council leader would be chosen only by councillors, depriving local members of a say in who leads the city, but would have essentially ruled Rothery out and favoured the well-connected Ann O’Byrne.

O’Byrne failed to answer questions about her links to a company involved in questionable cash transactions and investments, including £20,000 to an organisation that was used to employ her daughter. Ironically, these unanswered questions were used by Labour as the excuse for re-interviewing all the mayoral candidates, leading to the widely-condemned scrapping of the shortlist.

Barker is a former official and Johnson a former shop steward of Unison, the union that selection panellist Wendy Nichols represents on the NEC.

New selection, old panel

Labour has replaced a shortlist of three women councillors, with half a century of experience among them, with a new shortlist of two councillors. One shortlisted candidate is a black woman councillor who was about to step down in May after only becoming a councillor in late 2019, having told local figures that she was taking a job in the office of ‘metro mayor’ Steve Rotheram.

She is close to Kim Johnson MP, who employs one of the shortlisting panellists, and attacked Jeremy Corbyn after he endorsed Rothery to become the party’s candidate.

The other shortlisted candidate is a male councillor, 25 years old, from the right of the party.

According to Labour sources, the selection panel for the new shortlist was the same as the one that decided to scrap the previous shortlist and bar the shortlisted women from re-applying, including favourite Anna Rothery, who would have been set to become the first elected black woman mayor if selected. Labour’s regional director was also in attendance.

Labour’s peculiar intervention

Last week, before the new shortlist was published, SKWAWKBOX contacted the north-west figures named above for comment, including the two MPs, who were sent a draft of the article as it stood. No comments were provided by any of those contacted.

However, last Thursday an email was received from Labour’s ‘legal queries’ email account requesting reconsideration of the publication of this article. The full email reads:

Dear Sirs,

We’ve been made aware of an article you intend to publish today relating to the Liverpool Mayoral selection. In it, you make gratuitous innuendos and assertions about various Party members, as well two Labour MPs.

We would request that you reconsider publication of this article.

Kind regards,

The Labour Party

SKWAWKBOX wrote back the following day:

Thank you for your very interesting email. Please provide a list of what you consider ‘gratuitous innuendos and assertions’, along with detailed reasons why you consider it so.

I sent both MPs a full draft of the article, so I know the party is well aware of what it says. I await your response by return.

Otherwise, I’ll be making my own decision on publication without regard to your nebulous assertion.


No response has been received by the time of writing, almost a week later.

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    1. Nothing that happens in the party now can be said to have “nowt to do with Keir Starmer then”.

      BTW, since he’s had Labour consistently dropping in the polls for weeks now and the party is now certain to lose badly this May, why ARE you still so unquestioningly loyal to the man? There’s no longer any case anyone can make that he’s any sort of improvement, or that anything he’s done in the job justifies the four year long campaign waged by the PLP to make sure their own leader would be prevented from winning an election.

      Those MPs ALL stated, over and over again, that Labour would be “twenty points ahead” with ANY OTHER LEADER.

      Why can’t you face the fact that everything Keir’s done as leader so far has been a total failure and that none of what he’s done- the rightward push, the obsession with flying the Imperial Flag that nobody was demanding Labour make a fetish of- and none of what he’s caused- the pointless suspensions and expulsions of huge numbers of innocent party members, the resignation of tens of thousands of other party members in disgust and despair- have done the party nothing but harm?

      Why can’t you accept that nothing can possibly happen that could come remotely close to justifying any of that vindictive ugliness? That there’s no chance that any of it will lead even to the defeat of the Conservatives in name- which is all that a Labour victory on a centrist platform ever can be?

      What is there that could possibly still be worth defending in any of it?

      1. Well done Ken burch,but we are talking of much more than one hundred thousand have dumped the establishment Labour party and definitely not tens of thousands…Money and membership are walking away and reality is beginning to bite the PLP backers of the establishment knight.

      2. I don’t think that Max feels that he is failing. All going to plan.

    2. Nowt to do weth Starmer? That’s strange, because, apparently, ANYONE tweeting anything that could be interpreted as AS was the direct responsibility of Corbyn? Now, Starmer has nothing at all to do with the Labour Party ….

      Interesting viewpoint ………………

    3. just how well connected OByrne is we should soon know.ITs amazing how these “well connected” go forward despite the membership not supporting them.You can bet with that Surname though she will never get a holiday at Pontins in Southport.

      1. SB – Really, you haven’t said he is involved.
        Was I wrong to assume that you would have revealed any involvement by Keir Starmer in the extensive web of connections that you have detailed above. If Keir is complicit in the above when can we expect further revelations evidencing his involvement.

      2. Steve ..check under the sheets and the bed before going to sleep..also look out for the “offer you cant refuse” ..Dont mess with Kap em man..!

      3. Joseph – Thanks for your concern for my welfare but I don’t believe I have anything to be fearful about.

        Unlike you I don’t live in a state where the corrupt government ensures that it remains in power by following the example of the authoritarian dictatorship that props it up.

      4. SteveH
        If a grey mountain with a tail at each end walks into the room and drops 27lb of shite on your coffee table
        Then you can safely assume there’s an elephant in the room

      5. Doug – Another one joining the queue to tell me that you don’t have any evidence to support your assertions.

      6. SteveH
        So if he’s not orchestrating this then they are freelancing and he needs to sort it
        Either he’s in control or he isnt

      7. Doug – Doesn’t stuff like this fall under the remit of the NEC rather than the party leader.

      8. “Really, you haven’t said he (Keir Starmer) is involved.”

        Because – good journalist that he is – Steve Walker has no evidence of it, but the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

        Point is, even if SirKy didn’t play a direct part in the shenanigans, there is also no signs or evidence that he closed down (and revoked) the strategems and scheming of the Labour right.

        Alas, Sir Keir Rodney Starmer misrepresented himself as a “unity candidate” He is a War Leader – and the war is against the party membership and its previous leader.

      9. So who authorised £600,000 payment to Panorama Drama Queens and what was the legal advice, is their grounds for contra charging Temporary Embarrassment and his glove puppet
        Will it come up at conference
        You are parroting wee Jimmy Krankie ‘there is no evidence ‘
        We know that because you refuse to hand it over
        Fuckwittery might buy time but the end result is beyond doubt

      10. Doug – I’ve no idea who signed off the £600k payout and yes I do think this is an unacceptable position and that clear lines of accountability should be put in place to protect the members funds.
        However having said that it is my understanding that the original advice that Corbyn received at the beginning of last year was that Labour ‘could win’ which is nowhere near a dead cert. Plus if we had lost the case it could have been very considerably more expensive.
        It was also reported last summer that after Labour had received the draft EHRC report that they did the responsible thing and sought fresh advice from 2 QCs.
        What shouldn’t be forgotten is that the person who originally created this liability was the then leader of the party who irresponsibly issued an official Labour party statement without getting it approved by the party’s lawyers first.

      11. I was warning SW not you judas H you numpty Steve H davidh ,sh…and even more aliases to play paid troll distraction politics.

    4. SteveH – “So nowt to do with Keir Starmer then.”
      ??????? 😊

      1. SteveH – “Jack – Do you have evidence to the contrary?”

        SteveH, as far as I know, Starmer is still the Leader of the Labour Party and has not called for local democracy to be allowed select its own candidates.

        But as you have turned this into ‘question time’ please answer why you support Starmer who is neither a democratic nor a Socialist and a Zionist to boot and as such is a racist..

    5. If those people had stepped over the line which they surely have Keir Starmer would have ensured they reversed their decision, the fact he hasn’t admonished them or spoken out about the almighty mess they have caused points to his fingers deeply embedded in this chaos

      1. tcliverpool – So are we to take it that you also don’t have any actual evidence to support your assertions.

      2. And you have no evidence he hasn’t, he is leader of the party, one of his Cities is in turmoil yet he says nothing, does nothing and allows the chaos to continue, Labour could lose Liverpool over this and as per usual on any topic he is resolutely silent, that is culpability

    6. This cult of new Labour 2.0 specialises in making sure every committee with any power is solid right-wing so only the cultists get elected and socialists get sent packing. How anyone with a straight face can call Labour socialist or left-wing any more is beyond me…

      It didn’t help I bet the socialist was first a lady and black even worse a socialist so had no chance once this lot started there BS games.. So yes he is in charge the great leader of this cul, so don’t give me nothing to do with him what a joke!

  1. An electoral machine that makes Tammany Hall appear innocent in comparison. A system designed to provide access to salaried positions to which other salaried positions are attached. A party of saints would be corrupted by this system. In the meantime the earnings of working people have remained static for decades.
    The rights of trade unionists and the welfare of poor people are at the bottom of the agendas of these webs of politicians feeding off the taxes levied largely on those least able to pay them.
    It is small wonder that these corrupt and selfish apparatchiki will not allow the choice of candidates for salaries to be left in the hands of people unable to appreciate the lifestyles of the political class, which depend entirely on jobs at Westminster, councils and Union HQs. Expecting these people to abide by the spirit of democracy is futile- everything that they have in life and intend to pass down to their descendants or favourites depends upon their power to short circuit popular rule.
    As to Keir Starmer: https://novaramedia.com/2021/03/02/keir-starmer-is-a-long-time-servant-of-the-british-security-state/

    1. Thanks Bevin for highlighting just how dangerous the knight is and how lies and cheating are part of his professional career.Total..misfit and a certain “plant” .

  2. At least it shows it had nothing to do with cronyism and all to do with cronyism and opposing everything related to Corbyn (which doesn’t make it any better).

  3. This is excellent journalism by Skwawk. This anti democratic high handed plotting and scheming by Labour HQ is totally unacceptable in this day and age.

    1. Plain Citizen – I agree that all the anti democratic high handed plotting and scheming is totally unacceptable in this day and age but according the evidence above it seems that all the plotting and scheming is taking place at the Local and Regional levels rather than at the National HQ level.

  4. Aren’t Leigh Drennan, Lotte Boumhela and Sam Tarry members of Momentum? If I remember correctly Drennan was Momentum’s candidate for the NEC back for the by-election that took place on the spring on 2019 and Boumhela is now a member of Momentum NCC representing the North West.
    Tom Warnett is Trade Union circles isn’t considered a right winger and as the article states he managed Sam Tarry’s MP campaign. Tarry is one of Momentum’s Vice-Chairs.
    Therefore, are we witnessing Momentum deciding not to support Ann Rothery?
    In a way it would be some sort of poetic justice. It is very possible that local Momentum figures leaneed on Rothery demanding from her to take a stand demanding for the organisers of Don’t Leave Organise to disinvite Esther Giles as a speaker for the event as otherwise she will withdraw herself from participation. The event was ironically about defending freedom of speech withing the Labour Party and Giles the Secretary of one of the Bristol’s CLP has been suspended pending investigation from the Labour Party for standing by the members rights to debate and vote motions in support of Jeremy Corbyn and critical of Starmer and Evans.
    Thus,from my point of view Ann Rothery lacks good political judgement. I am in favour of trans self id, but why on earth did she decided to block Giles from speaking at an event on freedom of speak?
    I find telling too that the two women MPs representing Liverpool seats and members of the Socialist Campaign Group both appear to be welcoming and supporting Joanne Anderson, in contrast with the two men MPs that still are supporting Ann Rothery, probably on a point of principle.
    I have never heard Paula Baker speak and the controversy surrounding the Wavertree 4, it makes me question her judgement. However, I have heard Kim Johnson speak and she came across as a woman without air and graces, feet on the ground and a solid socialist.
    So perhaps it is time for the people of Liverpool to support Joanne Anderson as Ann Rothery doesn’t have the necessary skills to be a major, no after the blunder of barring Esther Giles from speaking and failing to offer an apology.

    1. And as someone who entered municipal politics in in the NE in the wake of the Poulson affair, I full well know how corrupt tentacles can persist in a council chamber even after the perpetratorsare put away. Putting it simply, I feel we have yet to see the full extent of the problems in Liverpool CC

      1. He did more for Newcastle than every other politician past or present

  5. So they said Skwark made ‘gratuitous innuendos and assertions’ and they ‘ would request that you reconsider publication of this article.’
    So no solicitors letter or threat of legal action from Labour’s ‘legal queries’ (I’m sure he would have got one if they thought there were grounds) . Looks like this is the best they could come up with. Skwark is supposed to roll over and say ‘alright then, I won’t publish it’.
    Well done Skwark

  6. Thank you Steve Walker and SKWAWKBOX. You have very responsibly and fairly identified and a pool of people which has the Means, Motive and Opportunity to manipulate , manoeuvre, exploit and derail Labour’s operations and very metabolism as a democratic socialist entity (some say ‘party’, some say ‘movement’).

    Now we can be confident that responsible journalism from bloggers in places like Crewe, Stoke, Liiverpool, journalists and activist at the People’s Press Society, openDemocracy, Novaramedia and, of course, your good self, will “follow the money”, collate the evidence and build the case against the accused.

    Thanks again SW.

    1. oooops ‘very responsibly and fairly identified and NAMED a pool of people which……’ foggy brain, sorry!

  7. “We would request that you reconsider publication of this article Kind regards,The Labour Party”. How soon will the Labour party refer to their enforcement division with instructions from their hitman, Israeli spy Assaf Kaplan who admitted being in Unit 8200 which was directly implicated in the killings of Palestinians, as well as mass surveilliance, blackmail and harassment targeting the entire Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation.
    The Asshole Kaplan… You have a nice newspaper here Mr Steve Walker wouldn’t like anything to happen to it, know what I mean Gov’nor?

    1. Yes, Starmer “handing over” popular, left wing policies worthy of Corbyn and McDonnell to a conservative charlatan like Sunak (so he can miss-apply and neuter them) is hardly indicative of ‘forensic’ intelligence. McDonnell himself reacted on Twitter, ‘Sunak steals my rhetoric but no substance.’

      Starmer’s nothing more than a factional political warmonger against the left and is allowing a very right wing government to steal our clothes. He’s bad for Labour and its electoral health.

      1. …. and yet I recall that just a few days ago some on ‘the left’ were naively insisting that Labour should have presented its own detailed economic plan prior to the budget.

      2. Steve H – Labour doesn’t have a current ‘detailed economic plan’. I haven’t heard them come out with any plan – on anything.

        What Sunak was working from was Labour’s GE17 and GE19 Manifestos.

        The Manifestos Corbyn, McDonnell et al. put together.

        The Manifestos the MSM – and others – ridiculed mercilessly.

        The Manifestos Johnson and his gang have been working from, for the past year. Their own Manifestos amounted to ‘Get Brexit Done!’

        When it came to the Social Policies, that’s when they became confused.

        Lucky for Starmer, the Tories got in first. Imagine the raucous laughter, if Starmer had tried to copy Corbyn’s Manifesto?

      3. SteveH, if “some on ‘the left’ were naively insisting” on presenting their own plan before the budget, it was to stimulate discussion and community across and IN the left – NOT to provide the Conservatives with advice or insight to the needs of the ‘red wall’, or a ‘how-to’ idiots guide on sensible politics (for the Many, not the Few).

      4. qwertboi – It was rather naïve of them (regardless of their good intentions) to believe that it was possible to do both.

    2. Agree
      If your serious about economics and winning next GE these policies should be out there repeated ad nauseam until no one , particularly MSM and toilet papers can twist them

      True story
      GE 2019
      We have always voted Labour but we cant vote for Corbyn
      OK who did you vote for in 2017
      Labour, we always vote Labour

      Propaganda works

      1. Steve H – No, thank you. Perhaps, you could make your comments less opaque.

  8. goldbach, depending on the results of the oncoming May’s elections, Starmer could be challenged for the leadership as early as June.
    I don’t believe that the challenge to his leadership will come from the left, but rather the right of the Party. once it is in black and white how much of an electoral liability Starmer is.
    The only way Starmer would be allowed to stay as leader despite a catastrophic electoral result in May would be for Starmer to double up on the witch hunt against the left and them if bad results continue next year, they right would challenge Starmer for the leadership them.

    1. Maria – I have my doubts that the RW will challenge Keir this side of a GE. The risks are too high for them and they may be many things but they are not stupid.
      Why so many who profess to be on ‘the left’ are so anxious to get rid of Starmer for him to be inevitably replaced by a Blairite is beyond me.

      1. Steve H, why would we vote for a candidate further to the right than Starmer? I can envisage that it would be difficult to get a candidate from the SCG. Plus no necessarily it would be the best candidate for the leadership of the Party at this particular moment in time.
        We have the experience of the MSM attacking Corbyn and we have to realise that the MSM would go after Richard Burgon, John Trickett or Ian Lavery with gusto. Hence, it could be 2019 deja vue.
        However, Barry Gardiner could get enough nominations at PLP’s level to get to the next stage. I would gladly give Gardiner my vote as from my perspective it would be by far a better leader than Starmer.

  9. I reckon you’re more or less right, Maria.
    There is one more factor that could play into this – a number of court cases.
    If they go in favour of the appellants it could stir things up a bit.

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