Jeremy Corbyn's office denies supporting Sam Wheeler in Manchester Gorton

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Earlier this week I wrote a story that Jeremy Corbyn’s office was supporting Sam Wheeler, the high profile Momentum activist, to replace Sir Gerald Kaufman in Manchester Gorton. Paul Waugh at the Huffington Post reported a similar story. 

A very senior source close to Jeremy Corbyn has been in touch today to deny the story. She said, “It’s very unhelpful for you to suggest that we have any preference in this selection”. Jeremy Corbyn's Official Spokesperson didn't reply to my request for a comment. 

Multiple sources earlier this week laid out in detail to me the support that Jeremy Corbyn’s office was providing to Mr Wheeler. A source on the NEC told me, “They are still trying to make Sam Wheeler happen, but not sure Jeremy himself wants Sam Wheeler but lots of stuff gets done in JC's name”.

Another Momentum source told me that Jeremy is keen for there to be a left candidate, but is not backing Mr Wheeler outright. Jeremy would prefer a wider shortlist of left candidates. Some close to Jeremy and Momentum are vociferously supporting Mr Wheeler and this is what has led to the speculation. 

A senior MP told me, “They were backing Sam Wheeler but they’ve had huge rearguard action for a woman or BAME candidate, so they have backed off”.

Councillor Yasmine Dar, from Moston, has been named to me as a potential alternative candidate. Yasmin Dar confirmed to me that she is standing. She said. "I am interested in the Gorton CLP seat, the reason being I have first hand knowledge and experience of working with all communities across all 7 wards in the CLP. I have lived, worked and developed services over 40 years within our CLP. I feel I have the right credentials to follow in Sir Gerald's footsteps.

A wildcard in the race is the rumoured entrance of Tony Lloyd. I understand that Tony has been in touch with both Unite and GMB. It’s unlikely that he would run unless he was certain the shortlist was favourable to him. I understand he has been speaking with Jeremy Corbyn's team. A local source told me, “I don’t think he’s serious, I think it’s part of his campaign to be in the Lords”.

Some have been dismissive of Mr Lloyd with a local MP telling me, “There are enough old white men in Parliament”.

A different member of the NEC, Alice Perry, told me, “There is a strong case for Manchester Gorton being an all women shortlist. It is also important that the shortlisted candidates reflect the diversity of the local community.”

Allies of Mr Wheeler were involved in altercation with rivals at Unite’s North West Political Committee on Friday. My understanding is that one of Mr Wheeler’s closest allies attempted to force Mr Wheeler’s nomination through the committee. This was aggressively resisted by a number of others present and “tempers got heated”, according to a source who was present. 

There is intense local opposition to Mr Wheeler in Gorton and I understand this had led to some of the candidates talking to each other in an attempt to block Mr Wheeler from the shortlist.

There is a Labour NEC meeting on Monday that will decide the process. It’s likely that there won’t be an all women shortlist, despite pressure from many quarters. The shortlist will likely be 4 people. 

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