WALTER CRONXITE on Croydon’s early runners and riders in the 2017 General Election stakes
Sarah Jones, the Labour Party candidate who two years ago came within 165 votes of unseating Tory Gavin Barwell in Croydon Central, has been told by her party chiefs that if she wants to try again on June 8, she is guaranteed selection.
Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee has instituted “emergency candidate selection procedures”, citing the short turn-round because of the snap General Election called this week by the unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May.
In doing so, they have effectively wound back the clock at Labour HQ to May 2015, a time before Jeremy Corbyn was leader, and means that any Corbyn supporters in Croydon will be denied the chance to be selected to represent the party in the one battleground seat in the borough.
It also denies the many new members and grassroots activists an opportunity to de-select MPs, such as Croydon North’s Steve Reed OBE, who were part of the “Chicken Coup” that tried and failed to overthrow Corbyn last summer.
So far, all three of Croydon’s sitting MPs – Reed, Barwell and Chris Philp, in the Tory stronghold of Croydon South – have put themselves forward to stand for re-election.
The only other candidate selection which has been made public is the FibDems in Croydon Central, who have chosen Gill Hickson. In 2015, Hickson only managed to finish fourth in the once liberally inclined Croydon South, where she managed to lose 16per cent of her party’s vote share, and her deposit.
Labour, meanwhile, is pushing through procedures in order to have as many candidates in place as possible by this weekend.
In a document circulated to party officials across the country, the key paragraph as far as Croydon Central and Sarah Jones is concerned is this: “Candidates who stood in the 2015 election, and who remain in compliance and eligible to be a candidate, will be contacted by Regional Offices asking that they seek selection again in those same seats.”
Since 2015, Jones has been keeping a relatively low profile politically, although she has served as chair in her Constituency Labour Party and last summer she publicly backed Owen Smith when he challenged Corbyn for the leadership.
On the Croydon Central candidacy, Jones has refused to commit either way, though it has been no secret that she found the election campaign a gruelling and bruising experience, especially given the narrowness of her losing margin. Given the terms of the selection process as laid out, it is possible that Jones could opt for another, safer seat in the event of a sitting Labour MP retiring.
In its letter, the Labour hierarchy explained, “The NEC has agreed MPs will be reselected automatically if they wish to stand again. Vacancies will be advertised on Friday April 21 and after close of applications on Sunday April 23 will be selected directly by panels of the NEC and Regional Board members in order to ensure candidates are in place and endorsed by the NEC before the nomination deadline of May 11 2017.”
As if to add insult to the injury that the tens of thousands of Corbynistas will have suffered, the letter continues: “It is with the greatest regret that local party members will not be able to select parliamentary candidates. This process is necessary and it is only due to the exceptional snap General Election circumstances and will not set any precedent for future elections.
“It will be simply impossible to hold trigger ballots, selection hustings and meetings in the 631 Parliamentary constituencies in the given timescale, especially at a time when members are out campaigning in the local and general elections. As with standard election campaign procedures, meetings at all CLP meetings have now been suspended for the duration of the local and general election period except for campaign planning purposes.”
Sitting MPs have until 6pm today to declare whether they wish to stand. “If they decide to stand again, they are deemed automatically reselected,” the Labour Party letter states.
Other seats, where there is no automatic candidate, are to be advertised from tomorrow, with applications closing on Sunday.
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