Mary Southcott asks what do we know of the prospective Labour MPs moving towards the general election?
Labour prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) have been chosen in the seats that Labour expects to win. It looks as if it will be a better day than it looked when many of them were selected. 211 other constituencies will choose their PPCs starting in the New Year, in case there is a May General election. The foreign secretary expects to be in post for only one year. “Not to take the electorate for granted”. So more likely October or November.
The byelection winners since 2019, namely Kim Leadbeater, Paulette Hamilton, Simon Lightwood, Samantha Dixon, Andrew Western, Ashley Dalton, Keir Mather, Michael Shanks, Alistair Strathern, Sarah Edwards and former Conservative Christian Wakeford are expected to win with the first time incumbency bounce. With Scott Benton in Blackpool South and Genevieve Kitchen in Wellingborough when and if byelections are called. Mid Bedfordshire may be harder unless Labour retains the LibDem and Green tactical vote.
Selection patterns have emerged. Many Labour and Conservative candidates have local connections as councillors, constituency officers or have worked in the MP’s office. London Borough councillors have done particularly well in their home constituencies as have those who worked in the previous MP’s office: Sarah Coombes in Tom Watson’s seat in West Bromwich East and Steve Race in Exeter. It would be invidious to pick those who will make their mark but elected mayors, Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan in the new seat, Bristol North East and Labour Leader, Darren Rodwell, Borough Leader, standing in Barking have national name recognition.
Michael Crick and Chartist have been following selections. First up, Retreads. Previous MPs. If they win their seats Douglas and Heidi Alexander, no relation, will find their feet immediately. Others will know the ropes: Nik Dakin, James Frith, John Grogan, Graham Jones, Pamela Nash, Melanie Onn, Jo Platt, Emma Reynolds plus Jackie Jones former MEP in Ceredigion Preseli.
PPCs from 2015, 2017 and 2019 standing again where they just missed out or moved to a safer seat. Many are electoral reformers: Andrew Pakes, Peterborough, working for pro PR union, Prospect, Luke Charters, York Outer, Lizzy Collings, Morecambe & Lunesdate, Adam Thompson in Erewash, Kevin Bonavia in Stevenage, and Jessica Asato who ran Labour4AV in Waveney. Most PPCs were asked about their PR views at selection. It would be good to have their responses: Natalie Fleet, Bolsover, David Pinto-Duschinsky, Hendon, Sarah Sackman, Finchley & Golders Green.
We know very few Left candidates succeeded and this applied when two MPs competed over a new constituency. Alison McGovern beat Mick Whitley in Birkenhead and Beth Winter lost to Gerald Jones in Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon. Ian Byrne survived in Liverpool West Derby andlost Sam Tarry (regular Chartist writer) to Jas Athwal in Ilford South. One exception, Faiza Shaheen, is restanding in Chingford & Woodford Green.
There are a smattering of Trade Union officials/activists, such as Tamworth MP, Unite’s Sarah Edwards: Unison activist Wilma Brown in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, GMB’s Lola McEvoy in Darlington, the TUC’s Midlands regional secretary, Lee Barron in Corby, former president of the Scottish TUC Katrina Murray in Cumbernauld, Kilyth & Kirkintillock, and Becky Gittings, national officer of the non-affiliated pro PR PCS in Clwyd East.
We have fewer women and ethnic minority candidates in the more winnable of the seats. It is difficult to know which will have overcome a disability or are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Anna Dixon working to reimagining Care, working on NHS volunteering with Helpforce who headed up Ageing Better, is standing in Shipley. Ethnic minority candidates, with an NHS connection, Zubir Ahmed. surgeon, Glasgow South West and Harrow East’s Primesh Patel, and stepping into Labour seats: Abtisam Mohamed, Sheffield Central, Satvir Kaur, Southampton Test and Rajesh Agrawal in Leicester East. In the South West pro PR GP, Simon Opher for Stroud, said “my prescription for the distrust and alienation in politics is to change the voting system”.
Another trend is former armed forces members: Will Stone in Swindon North, Fred Thomas in Plymouth Moor View, Louise Jones in North East Derbyshire, Mike Tapp, former soldier, worked for the National Crime Agency and the Ministry of Defence, Prison officers, and even a former Met police inspector, Jonathan Hinder, standing winnable Pendle & Clitheroe. A few lawyers, Lucy Rigby in Northampton North, Catherine Atkinson Chair of the Society of labour lawyers in Derby North, Warinder Juss, Wolverhampton West (formerly South West).
Hamish Falconer, a former terrorist response team when a FCDO diplomat in Lincoln, Mike Tapp in Dover, former army and National Crime Agency and Ministry of Defence Counter Terrorism and David Taylor, who founded the Labour Campaign for International Development in Hemel Hempstead. Jessica Toale pro PR in Bournemouth West, cofounded the Labour Foreign Policy Group.
Cycling UK’s director is standing in Rossendale & Darwen. Journalists Torcuil Crickton, former Westminster editor of the Daily Record in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and Polly Billington worked on the Today programme before becoming Ed Miliband’s special advisor. Alex Sobel MP, chaired the All Party Group Electoral Reform, is standing in the new Headingley seat, while Katie White is fighting Leeds North West.
Kirsty McNeill, Midlothian, headed Gordon Brown’s office, worked with Gordon and Sarah Brown and Save the Children, and UNISON Scotland’s Johanna Baxter, Paisley Renfrewshire South’s PPC chaired the Labour conference which backed PR. Some made their names outside parliament like the two PPCs who worked for the New Economics Foundation: Miatta Fahnbulleh in Camberwall & Peckham and in Loughborough, Jeevan Sandher, who spoke at the Labour Rally for electoral reform. The only seat we haven’t taken in Merseyside, Southport is contested by former Liverpool Councillor Patrick Hurley, area manager for the Royal Society of Arts, in the north. There is yet another Keir, Groves in Great Yarmouth. In Milton Keynes North the Optima psephologist, Chris Curtis, who wrote Rebuilding Labour & the Nation for Progressive UK spoke at the Conference rally, alongside Shrewsbury’s Julia Buckley and Wrexham’s Andrew Ranger, was also invited to the recent UK in a Changing Europe conference and Labour for a New Democracy zoom 2023 wrap up.
There will be choices for new MPs, to make their names in the media or work on select committees. Some may get a backbench bill to promote, others immediately opt to climb the greasy poll at the lowly rank of Parliamentary Political Secretary. At most selections, electoral reform was raised. Most PPCs were open about their support and still are privately. Although because PR is a Conference policy, not yet a Labour priority, they may keep their support to themselves. If you meet your PPC, ask them and do let us know.
Even with PR supporters like Paul Blomfield, Ben Bradshaw, Jon Cruddas, Wayne David, Margaret Greenwood, Margaret Hodge, Barry Sheerman, Alan Whitehead standing down, thanks to them all, the complexion of the Parliamentary Labour Party is likely to be even more supportive of electoral reform, with nearly half the current Shadow Cabinet supporting PR personally. We know we have allies in the Labour Unions and Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union, is TUC President this year. So check out the Chartist New Democracy Supplement on our website and good luck to all of the above to be elected later this year.