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Following yesterday’s shortlisting, Afzal Khan MEP is the clear frontrunner to win tomorrow’s Labour Party selection in Manchester Gorton. I have a clear rationale for this that I will outline.
Politics in Gorton, is far from simple but I will try and give a basic guide here. Currently there are about 2,000 members who can vote in the selection.
There are 7 wards Fallowfield, Whalley Range, Rusholme, Levenshulme, Longsight, Gorton North and Gorton South.
Whalley Range is by far the biggest ward in terms of members and contains left wing liberals and a substantial Asian membership. Fallowfield is a mixture of white working class and students. Rusholme is predominantly Pakistani with some students. Levenshulme is liberal intelligentsia. Longsight has a large Bangladeshi community as well as Pakistani. Gorton North and South are white working class.
There has been a long history in Manchester Gorton of irregularities around memberships. Multiple memberships coming from one bank account wasn’t uncommon when I worked for the Labour Party. Over the years different candidates have made intense efforts to sign up their supporters.
So broadly this means that the following factors are at play:
- Luthfur Rahman’s block vote. Councillor Rahman controls a significant block vote of Bangladeshi’s around the Longsight area. Luthfur was crucial in turning Longsight into a Labour stronghold and winning it back from the Lib Dems. His vote is believed around 150 - 200, although Mr Rahman thinks he has closer to 400.
- Rabnawaz Akbar’s block vote. Councillor Akbar has a block vote made up of Pakistani’s and the hard left. He controls significant number of votes in Rusholme from the Pakistani community. But he also controls votes from the hard left Red Labour group in Levenshulme. He has about 100 votes. This group despises Luthfur Rahman.
- Momentum’s block vote. They think they have around 400 votes spread across the constituency. There is a large Momentum membership in Gorton that they have been working heavily on the phone. Momentum is backing Yasmine Dar. It remains to be seen how much of this they can actually mobilise.
- Afzal Khan’s block vote. Mr Khan is a highly respected figure in Manchester. It’s no exaggeration to say everyone in the Asian community knows who he is. His vote is mainly based on business and faith links to community leaders. A lot of his vote is centered in Whalley Range (Mr Khan has focused heavily on this ward). His vote is believed to be around 200 among the BAME community. Khan also has very strong support from the unions (UNISON, CWU, ASLEF, GMB and USDAW)
- Everyone else. This leaves around 1,000 votes (50% of the constituency) unaccounted for.
Given the above that leads to the conclusion that 3 factors will decide the race:
1) Turnout. There are 2 parts to this, first the overall turnout, second who actually turns out their voters. Initially I thought there would be a very high turnout but the hustings is being held in Miles Platting several miles from the constituency. This will drive turnout down.
2) Transfers. Labour Selections use the Alternative Vote system where you rank the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and their transfers are reallocated until someone gets more than 50%. It is possible to do this on the first round.
3) Who gives the best speech. Whoever gives the best speech and manages to win the undecided in the room is clearly a factor.
So what does this mean?
It seems likely that on a low to medium turnout Rahman and Khan will be in the final two. There is more likelihood of Darth Vader sending stormtroopers into Manchester City Centre, than there is of Akbar’s supporters backing Mr Rahman. I understand they will support Councillor Nasrin Ali on the first round and Khan on the second once she is inevitably eliminated.
I understand from sources very senior in Momentum that they are also equally as passionately opposed to Rahman and will second preference Khan. So Dar’s supporters will likely preference Mr Khan after her.
It’s unclear what Lone’s supporters will do.
This means that if the final 2 is Khan and Rahman, the most likely scenario, Mr Khan will win. Unless Mr Rahman gets enough support to put him over or close to 50% on the 1st round.
Amina Lone’s hopes rest on there being a higher turnout and winning over a substantial number of the uncommitted voters.
I understand from Labour sources that Labour HQ has got itself into a panic over Yasmine Dar’s support from Momentum. They think that on a low turnout, the Momentum block vote could propel her to victory. This puts them in a curious position of openly opposing the Momentum choice. I understand that discussions are taking place on how to stop her.
Sources tell me that presently there are only 2 Labour organisers on the ground in Gorton.
Based on all the evidence, I think that Afzal Khan MEP will be the Labour candidate in Manchester Gorton.
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