Rebels fail in attempt to halt Labour’s candidate selections process
Women asked to come forward to stand in next year's council elections amid candidate shortage
22 September, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Campaign organiser Mike Katz
LABOUR’S turbulent search for candidates to stand at next year’s council elections was almost derailed when rebels called for the process to be halted and organisers to step down.
Members in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency only narrowly voted against a motion calling for selection meetings to be suspended. Insiders said that the difference between the motion being carried and its ultimate failure was only a matter of two or three votes at the meeting at the Swiss Cottage Community Centre last Wednesday. MP Tulip Siddiq was among those who voted against the motion.
The tension follows the abandonment of a candidate selection meeting in the West Hampstead ward last week – a key area for Labour where its two councillors are stepping down from the Town Hall. Discontent remains about when a “freeze” date marking how long members needed to be in the party in order to have a vote on who their candidates should be, with newer recruits complaining they have been excluded.
Organisers insist the rules as set out by Labour’s regional office have been properly followed and they cannot be blamed for delays caused by Theresa May calling a snap general election.
The New Journal revealed last week that frustration among some members that a window for applications to be a candidate after the election was not re-opened had been heightened by the discovery that the party only had 53 approved candidates for 54 slots on the ballot paper across the borough.
The party is estimated to have around 5,000 members across the two political constituencies in Camden.
Over the weekend, the party finally did open up the process again, although only to women members. Campaign organiser Mike Katz – a former councillor in Kilburn – said in a letter to card-carriers: “We are seeking to add candidates to the panel as we progress through the selection timetable, so you are advised to respond to this invitation as soon as possible.”
The options for those potential candidates joining the process late are indeed thinning, as some of the most attractive wards are being snapped up on a near-nightly basis and some will have to stand in wards where they will need to defeat an opposition councillor to seize victory.
Every single sitting Labour councillor to go through the internal process so far has enjoyed automatic re-selection under a new system, with the backing of members in their wards.
In areas where there are vacancies due to councillors stepping down, there have been more heated meetings. Georgie Robertson was the new face selected in King’s Cross on Monday in a contest which divided members, while Ranjit Singh was chosen in Cantelowes. Maddy Raman and Anna Wright were picked in Highgate, a ward currently split with the Greens, last week. This only leaves natural vacancies in Labour-held areas in Gospel Oak – the party must choose a candidate for an upcoming by-election likely to be held in November – and West Hampstead, where a meeting is yet to be re-scheduled.
The process is due to resume after next week’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.