The two main political parties have both chosen multi-stage processes to select their Police and Crime Commissioner candidates.
The Conservatives have gone for a centralised verification process. Candidates apply, are interviewed (I’m not yet clear whether all are interviewed or just a proportion), and a Candidates Committee verifies their suitability, whereupon their names are passed to local areas, who get to choose how they narrow down to a final candidate. More on that another time, mostly because that is when it will get interesting, but also because no actual decisions appear to have been made yet, and so no-one is complaining about any decisions that have gone wrong.
For Labour however, it’s a different kettle of smelly fish bits.
Labour have centralised applications, which are longlisted nationally, and the longlist is interviewed regionally, with the competing candidates in the emerging shortlist then going head to head on a party member postal ballot – or at least that is how it has been described to me (please correct me if I’m wrong). I understand that in some areas at least, candidates then have access to the mailchimp service so they can all email party members on equal terms, and generally, at the moment, it seems that the last bit of their process is reasonably clear, democratic, and engaging of the membership.
So it’s the first bit that has gone wrong for Labour.
You may remember that Tony Lloyd’s early selection in Greater Manchester last month without that nice democratic ballot caused TopOfTheCops to posit alternative ‘conspiracy‘ and ‘cock-up‘ theories. One candidate after another disappears from view in one of the easiest Police Areas for Labour in the country, and the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party emerges as the sole person on the shortlist – hence selected. Well, the version of conspiracy theory we suggested last month – that perhaps Cllr Afzal Khan would end up with Lloyd’s seat, has not worked out in practice, as the nomination for that has gone to Lucy Powell, Ed Miliband’s Chief of Staff, as Michael Crick predicted some time ago.
Then we noticed that, in Lancashire, Chris Cheetham, former senior County Councillor of 28-years standing, had his application simply ‘forgotten about’ by the party machine while they shortlisted away, having then to add an interview on to the process post-shortlisting, only to then exclude him. Did the process there have a grim inevitability about it, whereby Clive Grunshaw slides into place as a candidate? As an update to that, TopOfTheCops understands that Chris Maughan who, despite being a Labour member of the Police Authority, missed out on the longlisting, is now endorsing Mark Atkinson there.
Then yesterday we learn that Mike Olley hasn’t made the West Midlands shortlist, thinks the regional panel misunderstood the rules and didn’t appreciate that it was possible to have more than 2 people on the ballot. He quotes Lancashire’s shortlist of 3 as a counter-example. Imagine how he’ll feel when he finds out that South Yorkshire have 4 people on the Labour shortlist – Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings, Kash Walayat OBE, ex-Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes and Councillor Shaun Wright.
Another person complaining that Labour regional panels can only count up to two is Terry Renshaw, member of the Shrewsbury 24 convicted with “The Royle Family”‘s Ricky Tomlinson in a trade union dispute in – wait for it- 1972. The Daily Post, in an article that is sadly offline, reports that veteran Councillor Renshaw is vowing to leave the Labour party after he was excluded from the shortlist for the North Wales nomination. This guy risked imprisonment for the Labour movement, but now says Labour “does not act and believe in fairness and equality”.
And over in Leicestershire, the Leicester Mercury reported Sarah Russell’s selection as Labour candidate with the comment “Earlier this year, a Labour Party source had told the Leicester Mercury that Coun Russell would win the party’s candidacy.” A few days later the paper followed up with allegations that a party official had described local members feeling the selection process was a “political stitch-up”, with Russell as the only shortlisted candidate, and neither rival candidates Councillors Jewel Miah or former police authority member Wayne Naylor being interviewed.
Meanwhile, in Nottinghamshire, the Labour shortlist is confined to ex-MP Paddy Tipping, and a candidate we previously were unaware of whose previous electoral experience is limited. Nottinghamshire County Councillor Chris Winterton was eliminated, and former Sheriff of Nottingham (yes, really) Councillor Penny Griggs said last Friday she had decided not to take part. Should we congratulate Mr Tipping now?
And in the past week the Guardian has both reported that the Labour Party leadership was so spooked by George Galloway winning the Bradford West by-election that Labour MPs could be blocked from standing for Mayoral and PCC roles to prevent costly by-elections that could go wrong, and then that the plans for bans were in disarray. The main beneficiary, former MP Sion Simon who is pitching for Birmingham’s mayor, said there should be no ban, though he qualified it by saying that MPs who resign should foot the costs of the by-elections, which at £100,000 apiece is likely worse than a ban.
So, come November, we could have elections for Police and Crime Commissioners, Mayors, and by-elections for MPs who their party don’t really want to run. We could have the Labour party fielding candidates its members have been prevented from choosing, or whose selections look in other ways fixed. And all this for an election already full of anti-politics and speculation about Independents and where, in the wake of Bradford West, the Labour party really needs to convince voters that it isn’t taking them for granted.
Probably good news then that the Party has arranged to make it up to non-selected candidates by inviting them to drown their sorrows at a local brewery. Oh, wait a minute, apparently there’s a problem with that…