Dennis wouldn’t be Happy!
The Selection process for the next PPC for the constituency of Bolsover is underway.
Already it is mired in controversy with allegations of interference and gerrymandering by the NEC.
Invitations of self nominations were opened to members of the Labour Party on Thursday 13th October with a closing date of Thursday 20th October. The CLP Executive met on Thursday 20th October to organise their selection Committee, which comprised of 9 members, five female and for male for a gender balance. The next stage of the process was for the NEC to vet the self nominations and whittle them down to a long list by Friday 28th October for the CLP Selection Committe to reduce to a shortlist before the members could meet potential candidates to gauge their political opinions and views.
The NEC instead chose to present a long list of four candidates (essentially a short list) to the CLP which excluded five self nominations from residents of the Bolsover Constituency, effectively cutting the CLP Selection Committee out of part of the process. Of the five self nominations excluded by the NEC were two strong left wing candidates with Local Government experience.
Dr Joan Dixon a County Councillor with 17 years experience of local government and the current leader of the Labour Group at Derbyshire County Council, she is also the Chair of Bolsover Branch Labour Party and Vice Chair of Bolsover CLP. She also had a super nomination from Unite, (super nominations are meant to automatically included in any shortlist. This super nomination has conveniently disappeared, been lost by the NEC. Joan has spent many years campaigning and working national and locally for the regeneration of the old coalfields following the closure of all the deep mines in the UK. She has also campaigned in the constituency of Bolsover against the closure of Care Homes and Day Care Centres by the Tory controlled County Council. She has also been active in the campaign against Fracking.
Donna Finlay Hales is a District Councillor with Bolsover District Council and has campaigned against food poverty and is a director of the local Freedom Project, she is also a Nurse. She has organised Speedwatch campaigns and set up the local Youth Club “Boza Inc” following the closure of Youth Clubs by the County Council.
Of the four shortlisted candidates, none of whom are local, two are male and two female to ensure gender balance only three attended the Meet the Candidates meeting on Sunday 30th October, Vicky McGurk from Blackburn gave her apologies citing childcare issues. Vicky McGurk is already shortlisted for the Sedgefield constituency so local members are mystified / angry at her inclusion for Bolsover ahead of local experienced candidates who have represented and campaigned for local constituents over many years. The suspicion is that she is a paper candidate only to ensure gender balance for the long / shortlist and will conveniently withdraw to allow the other female candidate Natalie Fleet an easier ride, who is perceived to be the preferred candidate of the NEC. Natalie Fleet hails from Ashfield just to the south of the constituency of Bolsover and has a a background in Union activism but is a controversial candidate with a dubious history of confrontations on the doorstep with the electorate in the last General Election being involved in stand up arguments with residents and snatching back leaflets when challenged by the electorate in the constituency of Ashfield. She is also quoted as saying that the people of Ashfield “did not know what they were voting for” in the Brexit referendum. Ashfield voted heavily to leave the EU as did the constituency of Bolsover.
Of the two remaining male candidates Jerry Hague is the nearest to a local candidate living in Chesterfield. Davy Jones is originally from Belfast and now lives in Bristol.
Both Jerry and Davy presented well at the meeting with local members today and both have strong credentials for possible selection, however, the process which culminated in the shortlist of four candidates (effectively three) has ensured that the NEC have excluded all potential local candidates. This has angered members of the CLP and Labour voters who are not Party members and they have concluded that the whole process has been gerrymandered and is not transparent and that local democracy has been over ridden by the NEC and to a lesser extent the Regional East Midlands Labour.
Local members and activists feel that the selection process has been taken out of their hands and is now just a rubber stamping exercise and not transparent or fair.
The three remaining candidates to some extent are caught up in the backlash of the shenanigans and skullduggery of the NEC acting on behalf of the Labour leadership to ensure that no, or as few as possible, left leaning candidates are selected as PPC’s across the country in seats where Labour are in opposition.
A similar scenario has already taken place in the constituency of High Peak in Derbyshire where the NEC have again interfered and informed a potential candidate she would not be considered as a potential PPC due to an historical allegation of anti-semitism which had been previously disproved, but they would use it again, she subsequently withdrew her self nomination.
The Labour Party and NEC claim to be transparent in their processes but that couldn’t be further from the truth as demonstrated by the selection processes taking place in Bolsover and High Peak and elsewhere in the country.