A few weeks ago I wrote a detailed article about the shadow campaign in Manchester Gorton.
Following the very sad passing of Sir Gerald Kaufman multiple sources have told me that Councillor Mike Amesbury, Afzal Khan MEP, Councillor Julie Reid and Momentum activist Sam Wheeler are making moves to stand already. Wheeler is being aggressively supported by Jeremy Corbyn’s office. It’s likely that Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar and Councillor Luthfur Rahman will also stand. The selection is likely to be bitter and acrimonious, judging by the text messages I’ve already received about rival candidates. Campaigning started earlier this morning and all sides are engaging in aggressive manoeuvring.
At this stage Khan must be seen as the front runner. The New Statesman reported earlier that Khan and Reid were potential candidates. The Huffington Post has reported that Sam Wheeler is being supported by people close to Jeremy Corbyn.
Sources tell me that Khan believes that he has all the big unions except Unite in his camp. Sources say the GMB region is definitely support Mr Khan. Chris Webb, the son of CWU Regional Secretary Carl Webb, and an influential player with unions in the North West, works for Mr Khan. Some local sources are utterly furious that Sam Wheeler is being put forward. One told me, “Some of the things people are doing is utterly distasteful. Gerald’s not even been buried. Sam Wheeler has never lifted a finger in Gorton”. A senior local politician told me, "There is a real desire for this seat to have a BAME candidate as it has one of the highest BAME - mainly Asian - populations in the country. What's more Manchester has only ever had one woman Labour MP so there will be a strong Lobby for a woman too."
Mr Khan refused to deny that he was running and said, “Sir Gerald Kaufman was a true champion for the people of Manchester and his constituents. Over the 20 years we worked together I was always grateful for his support, advice and above all friendship. He will be sorely missed and will be a hard act for anyone to follow.
“Out of respect to his memory and his family now is not the time to be discussing selections or the by-election”.
Mr Amesbury told me, “I’ve been very consistent on this, I’m not commenting out of respect for Sir Gerald." However sources very close Amesbury confirmed to me that he is running and intends to win.
Sources close to Councillor Julie Reid confirmed to be that she would be running. The source said ”She's going for it".
A source very close to Sam Wheeler told me, “He’s running and he is in it to win it. He’s got a very strong story”.
Councillor’s Akbar and Rahman weren’t reachable.
I understand the unions are coming under heavy pressure from Jeremy Corbyn’s office to support Momentum activist Sam Wheeler, with Unite considering supporting him over Khan. Wheeler is a surprise entrant into the race and he hasn’t previously engaged in any of the local infighting. Born and bred in Longsight, Wheeler was sacked by Boddington’s for trade union organising. He’s worked for several Labour MPs and is currently a civil servant.
My understanding is that Wheeler has some of the best experts in Parliamentary selections working on his campaign.
Councillor Mike Amesbury, who currently works for Andy Burnham’s Mayoral campaign and was Office Manager for Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, was the front-runner in the 2010 Oldham East and Saddleworth By-Election before pulling out. He is a Councillor in Fallowfield ward and likely to be taken very seriously by the unions.
Councillor’s Rabnawaz Akbar and Luthfur Rahman are dominant figures in the BME community in Gorton. They share a bitter personal rivalry and are likely to command a huge amount of personal loyalty from the membership.
Whatever happens next the selection is likely to be bloody and a real headache for Jeremy Corbyn.
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