LABOUR is to select a shortlist on Friday for the hotly contested Coventry North West Parliamentary seat amid local claims of a ‘stitch-up’, we have learned.
The Coventry Observer understands an official from the outraged local constituency party has been invited to sit on an interview and selection panel alongside regional and national party officials at the regional office in West Bromwich.
Their job will be to select a shortlist from a longlist drawn up by national officials – which it is understood excluded local applicants who are Coventry councillors.
They include Coventry councillors Jayne Innes and Ed Ruane in Coventry North West, and Jim O’Boyle in Coventry South, where there are equal concerns that local party democracy is being unfairly bypassed
Members of each of the local parties will select Labour’s candidate for the next general election – which could be imminent – from the shortlist.
Our local party sources continue to accuse the regional party and Labour’s National Executive Committee of ignoring requests for clarity as to who is on the longlist, with names still shrouded in secrecy.
Labour party officials told us last week there would be no review of the controversial selection process – despite the local outcry.
Longserving Coventry MPs Geoffrey Robinson and Jim Cunningham are retiring at the next general election, which could be any time after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stalling ‘Brexit deal’ deadline of October 31.
Asked for clarity by the Coventry Observer, party officials neither confirmed or denied last week that the local candidates had failed to make the longlist.
An official source, who did not want to be named, added: “The selections in both seats have been conducted in line with the party’s rules and procedures so there is nothing to review.
“Being a councillor does not guarantee a place on a longlist to become an MP.”
It follows emergency meetings of the two Coventry constituency parties last week.
Labour Party officials told us they could not comment on the personal data of who had made the private longlists, and who had applied and failed.
A Labour source said: “The purpose of longlists is to narrow the field so clearly not everyone can be on that list.
“This is a hotly contested seat with many high-quality applications and of course unsuccessful candidates will be disappointed.
“Obviously if we didn’t narrow them down, we would never pick a single candidate.”
Sources added candidates had not consented to their names being made public at longlisting stage.
Candidates’ application forms and personal statements, their background and experience, and their record of Labour Party activity are all considered in the longlisting process.
On the fast-tracked selection processes used for snap elections and by-elections, which will also see NEC involvement in shortlists to go to members of local parties for the ultimate selection of a candidate, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “These fast-tracked selection processes are the only way to ensure democratic selections in such a short space of time. Members will democratically select their candidates with local members on the shortlisting panels.
“An election could be round the corner, so we are moving quickly to make sure we have candidates and campaigns ready to go to defeat the Tories so we can end austerity and transform society.”
Local party sources responded by telling us the total absence of local candidates was evidence of a lack of balance and fairness, and ignored their long experience.