Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on how Labour has finally got round to selecting candidates for next May’s London Assembly elections
The fix is in.
Labour announced yesterday morning that the selection of a candidate to stand for the party in the Croydon and Sutton super-constituency in the 2020 London Assembly elections will be conducted from an all-woman shortlist.
It will be the third time in succession that Labour’s selection process for the Croydon and Sutton seat has excluded 49 per cent of the population, having used all-women shortlists in 2012 and 2016. “And they were very short shortlists then, too”, as one party activist observed.
The decision puts former Jeremy Corbyn staffer, and South Norwood councillor, Patsy Cummings, in pole position to try to win Sutton and Croydon for Labour for the first time in the history of the London Assembly.
Cummings, or “Knock knock” as she is known by some at the Town Hall, has been running her selection campaign since the end of 2018, and has the endorsement of Croydon Council leader Tony Newman. It was Cummings, for instance, who organised the well-received Windrush celebration lunch at that one-time bastion of Conservatism, the Selsdon Park Hotel, last Friday.
But Cummings is already playing catch-up against the Tories and LibDems. The Conservatives named Neil “Father Jack” Garratt as their candidate in March, and the Sutton councillor has been busy at functions either side of the borough boundary ever since, raising his profile with potential voters and local activists, while the LibDems earlier this month announced that Crystal Palace resident Claire Bonham would be their runner in what could prove to be a genuine three-way contest.
And while Cummings has been seen to be quite confident of her chances of selection, she will have to wait until November before the London Labour organisation’s process finally manages to declare the winner.
At least she has a contest to enter. Her Croydon councillor colleague, Jamie Audsley, who for the past nine months or so has been posting very earnest – and deeply dull – little videos on social media expressing his concern for all sorts of issues in Croydon, and even in Sutton, has now had it confirmed that the selection door has been slammed in his face.
Over the last couple of days, a handful of Labour Assembly Members – Len Duvall, who holds the Greenwich and Lewisham seat, Florence Eshalomi (Steve Reed OBE’s old friend, who was handed the Lambeth and Southwark seat in 2016), and Leonie Cooper (Merton and Wandsworth) have all tweeted their “delight” and “honour” to have been re-selected.
Not that anyone seems to have a very clear idea of how that re-selection process has operated. Suffice to say that mumblings from Momentum that they wanted to have an all-member re-selection process, particularly in the case of Blairite Eshalomi, appear to have come to nothing.
London Labour announced yesterday eight constituency vacancies, with Croydon and Sutton and three others to be determined by all-women shortlists. These include Barnet and Camden, where Labour AM Andrew Dismore is standing down, and North East, where Labour’s Jennette Arnold is retiring.
Brent and Harrow, held for Labour by Navin Shah, is also vacant, but is not being run as an AWS. The other Labour selections which are open to men and women wanting to stand for their party in their home area are in seats where only the politically naive might think there is any chance of unseating Tory rivals: Bexley and Bromley, Havering and Redbridge and South West (which the LibDems are targeting).
Labour is also seeking members to come forward for the top-up list candidates; in 2016, three Labour AMs were elected through this PR part of the system, and of those, only Tom Copley is thought to be seeking selection. Shrouded in behind-closed-doors mystery, the selection of list candidates, by whatever party, and the all-important order in which they are placed on the list, is open to all kinds of manipulation.
In the past, London Labour has been reluctant to campaign too hard in Croydon and Sutton for fear of actually winning the seat, and thereby unsettling the algebraic calculations which determine how many list AMs they might be awarded.
By not having a candidate in place until less than six months before election day seems a surefire method of not rocking that boat, even if Cummings, or whoever eventually does get selected, is riding on the coat-tails of an incumbent Mayor who is standing against an incompetent Tory mayoral candidate.
The London elections are part-first-past-the-post and part-proportional representation, which is why the Remain-supporting LibDems have a special spring in their step in London following their performance in last month’s PR-determined European Elections. There, results suggest that Siobhan Benita, rather than Tory Mayor candidate, the dull Shaun Bailey, is likely to be the closest challenger to the Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
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