General election 2017: Key Corbyn allies not selected by Labour

By Iain Watson
Political correspondent, BBC News

image source, Reuters

Two of Jeremy Corbyn's key allies have not been selected for parliamentary seats under a fast-track process.

His political secretary Katy Clark - a former MP - pulled out of the contest for Leigh, the seat Andy Burnham is vacating, at the eleventh hour.

A local councillor close to Mr Burnham, Jo Platt, received the nomination.

Sam Tarry - a key figure in Mr Corbyn's second leadership campaign - was also passed over for Hull West and Hessle, vacated by Alan Johnson.

Mr Corbyn's former speechwriter David Prescott - the son of Lord Prescott - was also not selected for the seat.

The chairman of the local Labour party in Leigh, Wigan council leader Lord Smith, had threatened to relinquish his post in protest if Ms Clark had been "parachuted" in to the constituency.

These nominations could have significance beyond the next election.

If Jeremy Corbyn were to decide to stand down before 2022, a left wing successor would need 15% of MPs and MEPs to get on the ballot to replace him.

At the moment, someone with similar politics to Mr Corbyn would struggle to get that backing.

But with 13 Labour MPs retiring so far, had Mr Corbyn got his allies into most of those seats, the balance could have been tipped more in favour of his wing of the party.

image source, Labour Party
image captionKaty Clark pulled out of the contest for Leigh at the last minute

Seven members of Labour's governing National Executive Committee, rather than local constituency parties, have been carrying out the selections in what are mostly regarded as "safe" seats since Wednesday.

Those with links either to the Unite or GMB unions make up the majority.

Usually, three of the seven have been involved in each selection and it had been assumed a deal would have been struck to get some of the party leader's picks in place.

But independently minded, left-wing NEC member Ann Black was also involved in the process and is unlikely to have been open to union or leadership pressure.

Those closer to the party's deputy leader Tom Watson seem to have fared better than prominent leadership supporters - for example, union activist Steph Peacock was chosen in Barnsley to replace leadership critic Michael Dugher.

He has tweeted his approval at the choice.

image source, Silverhub/REX/Shutterstock
image captionDavid Prescott is the son of former deputy PM Lord Prescott

Ellie Reeves - sister of MP Rachel - saw off left-wing Momentum activists to be selected for the London seat of Lewisham West and Penge.

That's not to say there aren't Jeremy Corbyn supporters amongst the new crop though.

Laura Pidcock, in North West Durham, is seen as firmly on the left, for example.

But as one Labour insider put it: "These are not leadership place men and women.

"For all the talk of stitch-ups, in most seats the panel has chosen the best-placed candidate to win.

"Yes, many have strong trade union links, but many are also councillors and local campaigners."

For the local people

And in many cases, women have been replacing men who have been standing down.

I understand one of the questions candidates were asked was about what they had done for local people in the area they hoped to represent, and this may have counted against those competing from outside.

One so-called "safe" seat remains to be settled.

Steve Rotheram - an MP close to Mr Corbyn - was expected to stand down in Liverpool Walton, as he has been selected as the Labour candidate for the new post of metro Mayor on Merseyside.

The seat is being eyed up by Dan Carden, who is close to Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.

But Mr Rotheram is said to be reluctant to go unless a local candidate - very possibly the current Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson - is given the nod, and the impasse hasn't been broken.

Issues to be resolved

So, if there is to be a left wing successor to Mr Corbyn, perhaps the best opportunity will come not as a result of new left MPs being returned to Parliament, but at this year's party conference.

It will debate whether there should be a change to the leadership rules to make it easier for those close to the current leader to get on the ballot.

It would be surprising - whatever the outcome of the election - for Mr Corbyn to stand down before that issue is resolved.

The website will list all parliamentary candidates when nominations close

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