Selection process unclear as Labour opens Old Bexley and Sidcup applications – LabourList

Labour has opened applications for the Old Bexley and Sidcup candidate selection after the death of Conservative MP James Brokenshire, but there are unanswered questions over the process that will be used for the contest.

The party told members on Friday afternoon that applications to be Labour’s candidate in the upcoming by-election are now open. Applicants must have at least 12 months continuous membership as of today to be eligible.

The following selection timetable has been set:

  • Friday 22 October 2021 – Applications open
  • Sunday 24 October 2021, 23.59 – Applications close
  • Wednesday 27 October 2021 – Shortlisting interviews
  • Thursday 28 October 2021 – Online selection hustings

It allows one day between shortlisting and selection hustings. This goes against the rule change passed at Labour conference last month on by-election selections, which said there must be at least one week between the two stages.

The conference change also means the rulebook now states that in a by-election, snap election or other selection “where there is insufficient time for a normal selection process”, a five-person panel dominated by local members is responsible for shortlisting.

Specifically, the shortlisting panel would comprise three local party representatives, appointed by the local executive committee; one regional executive committee representative, appointed by the chair and vice-chairs of the REC; one NEC member.

LabourList can reveal that an emergency meeting of the Labour national executive committee (NEC) officers’ group this week discussed a paper from the party on Wednesday that criticised the “inexpert drafting” of the conference rule change.

Labour has decided that the amendment approved at conference “does not override the NEC’s general powers to intervene or cancel selection arrangements or to impose candidates”. The party has determined that it can effectively ignore the rule change.

The party’s reasoning for being able to overlook the change is that the Labour rulebook also states:

“The NEC has the authority to modify these rules and any procedural rules and guidelines as required to meet particular circumstances or to further the stated objectives and principles of these rules. Further the NEC has the power to impose candidates where it deems that this is required by the circumstances”.

It is understood that deputy leader Angela Rayner raised specific objections to the NEC guidance put forward in the paper, and that NEC officers did not approve it. But whether the conference rule change will be followed in terms of the shortlisting panel is so far not known.

James Brokenshire died aged 53 of lung cancer. MPs held a minute of silence to mark his passing in the chamber this week, when the former cabinet minister was described as “unflappable, earnest, sincere” by Boris Johnson.

He first won the seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in 2010, with a majority of 15,857, and by 2019 his majority had increased to 18,952. The constituency has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1983.

The Labour Party was contacted for comment.

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