A LABOUR ‘stitch-up’ furore rumbled on today with Coventry local party officials withdrawing from the party’s process of selecting a shortlist for one of the general election seats.
As we have reported, local consitituency party officials in Coventry North West and Coventry South have cried foul over how the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) has ‘bypassed local democracy’ by drawing up secretive candidate longlists – which it is believed left off local applicants including Coventry councillors.
Concern is widespread among local members that applicants to fight the next general election for Labour are effectively being parachuted in, with local parties potentially having to choice from shortlists that Coventry members have had little or no say in.
As we reported earlier this week, Coventry North West officials were said to be invited to a selection interview meeting today at Labour West Midlands regional office to select a shortlist from the longlist.
Labour Party officials have denied any unfairness. National officials have told us there is high demand for the two Labour stronghold seats and the rules – usually adopted for by-elections and snap elections – have been correctly applied, with longlist selections based on merit.
But Coventry North West Labour Party posted on Facebook this afternoon: “Today the Chair (Chris Jones) withdrew from the meeting to shortlist for our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate on the grounds that she could not be complicit in what was evidently an unclean process.
“Both Chair and Secretary arrived for the meeting but only one was allowed to participate. It was suggested that we should carefully consider which of us participated and told that an email had been sent with a screenshot of a social media entry, reputedly from the Secretary indicating a preference for one candidate (not longlisted). There was no opportunity to refute this.
“The Chair agreed to participate subject to certain issues being clarified.We had arrived in good faith anticipating answers to our queries. A shortlist had already taken place because only six candidates appeared on the ‘longlist’.
“All six candidates were to be interviewed in the room by the Chair and a Regional board member and two NEC members using conference call facilities.
“The Chair expressed a wish to log several queries which had received no answer having been sent twice, but was told that an agreed procedure was to take place and that the NEC reps present would be unable to answer any questions about the process so far.
“Importantly no legal advice was forthcoming as to the personal liability of officers participating in the process in the event of a successful legal challenge.
“Once in the room, the Chair was supplied with a list of questions and she asked if additional questions would be permitted. This was asked because one candidate had published a statement questioning the process. A question on this was disallowed. At this point the Chair withdrew on the following grounds:
A shortlist had already taken place to arrive at six candidates but the criteria used to include/exclude was confidential and without any answers or guidelines available. This was clearly a thin veneer of democracy and the Chair refused to be co-opted into rubber stamping an unclean process.
“The Chair explained that our CLP would conduct hustings and that as Chair, she would do her best to ensure that candidates would not be subject to any personal attack but warned that attendees would most probably be reiterating the concerns expressed about the process. (3 times by the Chair and Secretary and also by concerned members individually).”
More when we get it.