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After we exclusively revealed the longlist for the Labour Party selection in Manchester Gorton, I understand that Sam Wheeler was nearly kept off the list until an intervention from Unite the Union.
A senior Labour source told me that the shortlisting panel decided to grade the candidates based on their experience particularly in elected office. This is why 9 of the 10 candidates are elected officials. This was clearly an attempt to keep Mr Wheeler off the longlist.
A Labour MP said that Jeremy Corbyn’s office failed to intervene and that Unite the Union’s Political Director Anneliese Midgley stepped in to ensure that Mr Wheeler made the longlist.
Another Labour source said, “If it wasn’t for Anneliese Midgley, Sam Wheeler wouldn’t be on the longlist”.
Sources close to Mr Wheeler stressed to me that in fact Wheeler was one of the most credible candidates on paper and this is why it was changed to about being an elected official. This clearly is part of an attempt by the Labour right to keep Mr Wheeler off the shortlist. I personally have never heard of such a criteria being applied before.
Labour First’s Luke Akehurst alluded to the criteria on Twitter.
Intrigued how Sam Wheeler got long-listed for a safe seat when unlike other 9 he has never held public office. https://t.co/ZaTf9DODcy— Luke Akehurst (@lukeakehurst) March 17, 2017
I understand that it's unusual for due diligence checks not to take place at the longlisting stage. I'm told checks didn't take place and will do so between the longlisting and shortlisting. Sources close to Mr Wheeler think that he has the cleanest record of anyone on the longlist.
Unite the Union decided to support Sam Wheeler after a hustings process with all the candidates invited last week. This happened at their Salford offices and each candidate was interviewed by the regional political committee.
Unite the Union, Jeremy Corbyn's office and Sam Wheeler all declined to comment.
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