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This is a quick piece to update you on the state of the race in Gorton for the Labour Party selection. Applications have closed and I understand that about 60 people have applied. I understand all the main frontrunners have applied but Tony Lloyd hasn’t. Longlisting is on Friday.
At the moment the real game is who gets on the shortlist. Ferocious behind the scenes positioning is going on, with rumour and counter rumour circulating into my text message inbox on an hourly basis.
The shortlisting panel consists of Keith Vaz MP, Glenis Willmott MEP, Shabana Mahmood MP, Andi Fox of the TSSA and Claudia Webbe of the Grassroots Alliance.
Glenis Willmott and Shabana Mahmood are likely to favour candidates opposed to Jeremy Corbyn.
Andi Fox and Claudia Webbe are likely to support candidates more friendly to Jeremy.
Mr Vaz will be the deciding vote. Mr Vaz is notorious in the Labour Party for being a wheeler-dealer and making behind the scenes deal. I’ve been told completely opposing views on what Mr Vaz will do. It appears he is trying to make all sides happy which of course in reality is unlikely to be a successful strategy.
Then you have the competing forces:
1) Jeremy Corbyn’s office, Momentum and Unite want Sam Wheeler on the shortlist. Unite's effective political operation will use every ounce of their influence to ensure Wheeler is on. I understand that Corbyn’s office is actively trying to stop Afzal Khan being on the shortlist agitating some members of the shortlisting panel. I put this to his office, but they didn’t provide me with a response.
2) BAME groups who insist the candidate must be BAME and want an all BAME shortlist. There has been a big backlash against talk that a white male may be selected in Manchester Gorton. Four of the five Manchester MPs were white men.
3) The GMB & CWU are supporting Mr Khan and will be outraged if he isn’t on the shortlist.
4) Labour moderates fiercely opposed to Mr Wheeler and Mr Khan are supporting Councillor Amina Lone. There has been a lot of backlash against Amina Lone with multiple sources telling me she may not be reselected as a Councillor in Manchester. I would be shocked if Lone wasn’t on the shortlist given the strength of the forces proposing her candidacy. The people in this camp are very confident Mr Wheeler won’t be on the shortlist.
So where does that leave us? At the end of the day this is going to come down to who has the most influence with the shortlisting panel and to some extent how the candidates perform at the shortlisting panel. It also comes down to who actually has made a deal with Keith Vaz, not those who think they’ve made a deal with Mr Vaz.
I wrote a piece last week suggesting that the shortlist would likely be Afzal Khan, Sam Wheeler or Mike Amesbury, Amina Lone or Yasmin Dar and Julie Reid.
I still think that the shortlist will be 4, meaning it has to be gender balanced unless the panel opt just to shortlist women. I think there is a chance that in an effort to stop Mr Wheeler, there could be an all BAME shortlist.
We will get our first chance to have a guess at the politics at work on Friday when the longlist is released.
As a closing note to this piece writing it reminded me of a funny story involving me and Keith Vaz. When I worked for Ed Miliband I was working in the Leaders Office when Keith Vaz came in with the US civil rights icon Jesse Jackson. Keith Vaz pointed at me and said, "Jesse, this is the Lord Stewart Wood". Anna Yearley, later Ed's Political Secretary, burst into laughter. Not really relevant to this piece but very funny.
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