Remember all that stuff about Labour members choosing the candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner? Well, in Manchester, not so much.
Tonight both the Manchester Evening News and the BBC are reporting that veteran MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Tony Lloyd has become the official Labour candidate for the Greater Manchester Police Area without a single vote being cast.
The M.E.N. reports that Mr Lloyd was chosen by a selection panel from an unopposed shortlist this afternoon, which would explain why there has been no election among party members. It is unclear if the longlisting or interviews cut out any other candidates, but it will bring back memories of Gordon Brown’s accession to be Labour leader without an election, with the suspicion that any opposing candidate had already been taken care of in advance.
In this instance, Police Authority Chair Councillor Paul Murphy apparently withdrew his expression of interest, and former MP for Rochdale Lorna Fitzsimons was thought to have decided against it, while Cllr Afzal Khan was interested, then one of the candidates for the Labour nomination for the Bradford West parliamentary by-election, and when that didn’t happen, allegedly in-line for another by-election in the North-West that hasn’t been called yet (according to Michael Crick)!
Which is where it gets interesting, because the M.E.N. reports that Mr Lloyd may stand down from Parliament before he has to in order that there can be a by-election for his seat on the same day as the PCC election. Has there been a deal whereby Cllr Khan gets Lloyd’s seat in return for clearing the way for this early nomination?
And, if there has been a deal, then another curious thing is Michael Crick’s coverage of this nomination. There was a brief minor embarassment for Crick on Twitter earlier this week when he tweeted his latest update of Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, but accidentally sent out the 23 February text, and not the 14 March version.
On 23 February Crick reports “The Labour councillor, and former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan, is reported to be considering the job, but has mixed feelings. Khan was previously mooted as a contender for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election after Phil Woolas was disqualified as the MP in 2010. But Khan is also said to be considering going for another parliamentary by-election which is expected to arise in a good Labour seat in northern England shortly. Khan has yet to return my calls.“
On 14 March this shrinks to “The Labour councillor, and former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan, was reported to be considering the job.”
In other words, Crick’s revelation about Khan’s prospects disappears from his latest text on Police Commissioners a couple of days before Khan’s own disappearance secures Tony Lloyd’s nomination without any pesky voting. It disappears just before it becomes a story. Is Crick in on this? Did he say too much?
Perhaps it is time that Mr Crick was, er, cricked?
For an alternative perspective, see ‘Cock-up or Conspiracy’.