A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The NEC moves in mysterious ways

Hmmm.... interesting move by Labour's NEC in only shortlisting 2 candidates, both male, for tomorrow's Ealing Southall by-election selection: Jo Sidhu and Virendra Sharma.

A shame for Sonika Nirwal who had my union's support (see below). I hope she finds a good seat to fight in the General Election.

However, both the 2 candidates shortlisted are strong.

I don't know Jo but Virendra is a good man and a wise operator. We served together on the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform executive and I'm also aware of his work in the past as Ethnic Minorities Officer at Party HQ and as an Ealing Councillor.

Whichever one gets it I shall be out canvassing for them this Sunday morning.

Details of the campaign are here for those who want to help: http://www.laboursouthall.com/

Meanwhile up in Sedgefield the local members have tonight selected Phil Wilson, who will be an excellent candidate - he was one of the team with John Burton who organised to get Blair selected back in 1983.


Anonymous Andrea said...

- why has the NEC shortlisted just 2 people? What's the logic behind it?

- Why no women have been included? Did they consider all female applicants not up for the job?
Today Brown in the Commons talked about extending period of time during which parties can use all women short lists for candidate selections and on the same day Labour's NEC fails to shortlist a single woman in an open shortlist for a winnable seat.

- who sits on the NEC panel who drew up this shortlist?

- On paper solid choice in Sedgefield. They had 3 candidates who sounded as decent choices on paper...and in that occasion the NEC gave local members a full choice shortlisting all potentially competitive contenders.

11:17 pm, July 03, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for Chair of the party Harman's pledge to bring on women, especially women from ethnic minority communities. With her in charge they are not even allowed onto the shortlist for party members to chose from.

So who put the fix in?

And what good is Harman?

11:20 pm, July 03, 2007

Blogger Dave Brinson said...

Phil Wilson is an excellent candidate for Sedgefield. Strong Blairite (surprise, surprise,) but a great campaigner. Came and spoke to Eastbourne CLP a few years ago- a constituency ignored by most "names" as a lost-cause. (One of the rare occasions, I suspect, where Phil and Meacher are in the same small, select group !)

11:39 pm, July 03, 2007

Anonymous Uncle Joe said...

Ah ! Dear !!!

Will they never learn.

In Blaenau Gwent The femail short list was designed to keep a corrupt crook (Aka P Law) out of office. This was a mistake.

Both in Blaenau and in Caerphilly corrupt and criminal actions were covered up by the Labour Party.

Both were silly mistakes.

Since her election Trish Law has done her best to prove that the constituency was best served without a female AM.

It has been noticable that since her election she has been
very quiet about corrupt matters on planning and sales of council land.

Or in words of one sylable which even our supporters in South Wales can understand.

"Law was a crook who used his position on the council to fill his pockets and those of his buttys"

A voice from the Valleys

12:06 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully Sharma will show up to a meeting or two once elected. It'd be a damn sight more than he's done as a councillor. Another smooth operation from Tom Watson!

1:53 am, July 04, 2007

Blogger Geraint said...

Disgraceful and disrespectful to our core votes in the South Wales valleys Uncle Joe, I hope that even Luke is decent enough to delete your comment, because of it's False protrayal of valleys people as stupid (they are far from it) and the slander that is in your comments.

3:15 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harriet Harman's first test as party chair, and she has failed it spectacularly. She claimed she wanted more women - but it was clear she meant just her. Now, in her first days as party chair she has reversed the decision to have an AWS in Southall, and carved out all women. Disgraceful.

9:31 am, July 04, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

In defence of Harriet, she was not on the panel that made this decision and therefore had no direct influence over it.

9:33 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous apecrkb said...

"she was not on the panel that made this decision "

who was on that panel?

9:43 am, July 04, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

I went down to Ealing last night. Be warned, the campaign HQ is a trek from the nearest tube station and it isn't even in the constituency.

It does seem a very short campaign, but the good thing is the dastardly Libs won't be able to build up any momentum! We should be able to hold onto quite easily.

11:01 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just devastated at this decision. I under nerves about keeping this seat but I think this is a real kick in the teeth to all the local and hardworking women who have worked their guts out for the Labour party there. Keith Vaz is a disgrace. He only cares about his own career. Sexist pigs the lot of them.

11:16 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Linda said...

It does seem hypocritical of the NEC (and the panel whoever was on it is representing the authority of the NEC)to impose all women shortlists when and where it suits certain interests and then come up with an all male shortlist of two when it serves another certain purpose/set of vested interests.

I'm totally in favour of all women shortlists but it does seem as though the Party is having it's cake and eating it here.

11:21 am, July 04, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

What an absolute disgrace. Two more New Labour stooges.

11:29 am, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Matthew said...

shame that the amicus candidate didnt make it in sedgefield

12:22 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He came second didn't he?

1:48 pm, July 04, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Without going into the skeletons in closets the other two most likely for Ealing Southall did have some campaigning weaknesses which a deep down and dirty Lib Dem fighter like Watson would understand and wish to avoid.

But as I say in my commentary here this behaviour will have introduced new risks. This could have been handled far better.

2:12 pm, July 04, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Susan (i.e. grimmerupnorth)

just so you understand

a) both Sedgefield and Ealing Southall are firmly moderate CLPs, whose members were always likely to back candidates you would disapprove of

b) the candidates who didn't make the Southall shortlist were also politically not of your ilk

so any alternative decision on the shortlist would not have resulted in a candidate more acceptable to you.

I'm all for lively debate about people in the party and where they are coming from, but during an actual election campaign you should try to find something good to say about the potential Labour candidates, rather than calling them "stooges". How about "I disagree with their politics, but..."

Unlike you Chris Paul manages to tell a narrative and make points without damaging the people concerned.

Chris is right than the Panel's duty was to maximise our chances of winning. They had to use their judgement to do that. Let's hope they got it right.

2:43 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Harman have to do with this? I don't even think the NEC has had a meeting since she became Deputy Leader, and she is not on any of its committees yet. Remember "Labour Party Chair" is not the same thing as "Chair of the Labour Party". The former is just a title with no powers or responsibilities whatsoever, whether it's Blears, Harman or Cruddas doing it.

3:03 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harriet Harman is the elected deputy leader, elected two weeks ago on a ticket of getting more women involved, and has been appointed party chair by the Prime Minister, to oversee the rebuilding of the party. You might think that she would have had some sway over the NEC by-elections committee. It doesn't bode well.

3:29 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Uncle Joe said...

Geraint - What core vote ?

Cover up after cover up has alienated this.

5:59 pm, July 04, 2007

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6:42 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharma - 530 votes (approx)
Sidhu - 350 votes (approx)

Over 2,000 Labour Party members - around 850 were backing Gurcharan Singh.

Democracy at work in the the Labour Party. Low turnout makes independent candidate inevitable.

Rumour is all the Sikh candidates (women and men) may select one to stand as an independent to give a clear message to the Keith Vaz's and Tom Watson's of this world.

It is rumoured this could be Sonika - she will get the support of those in Labour that did not like the way Labour HQ did this (may get some Labour MPs to back her 'unofficially') and the Sikh community may unite behind her. The Muslim 'protest' vote may also switch from the Liberal Democrats to Sonika.

Please watch the space in the next few days.

11:15 pm, July 04, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

That last comment is total nonsense as she is quoted saying this about Virendra on the campaign website:

"Labour Group Leader Cllr Sonika Nirwal said: "I am delighted that Virendra Sharma has been selected for Labour in Ealing Southall. I have worked with Virendra for our local communities and I know he is very able to stand up for local people. He is a good listener and will be a strong leader. He will be an excellent MP for Ealing Southall as he understands our communities and concerns."

11:22 pm, July 04, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

PS That isn't a low turnout. It's about 44%. The postal ballot for Deputy Leader was easier to vote in and only got 53%. The 2 times I've been selected as a PPC turnout was between 25% and 33%. 44% is about average for selection participation in a Labour held seat.

11:26 pm, July 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true - 8 long listed - 7 Sikh, 1 Hindu - the 1 Hindu gets selected as major opponents i.e Sonika Nirwal and Gurcharan Singh are not short listed because of Keith Vaz?

12:05 am, July 05, 2007

Anonymous anonymous said...

sorry about being anonymous but.. There were good reasons why some potentially good candidates didn't make it to the shortlist. However the interviews clearly have to remain confidential and it would be unfair to everyone involved if there was now a public discussion over the details suffice to say there was no conspiracy to keep anybody off the shortlist on religious grounds.

We have now got a good candidate in place lets go on win the by election and amuse ourselves watching the tories and libdems fight over second place.

12:14 pm, July 05, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thursday 5 July 2007


Around two weeks ago following the death of Piara Khabra, the MP for Ealing Southall, the race began for who would be the Labour Party candidate in the by election on 19 July. Last night it was confirmed the Labour candidate would be Cllr Virendra Sharma after the Labour Selection Panel, including Keith Vaz MP and Tom Watson MP decided on a remarkably short list, of two men on Tuesday afternoon. It is reported that fellow Labour MPs like Fiona Mactaggart were furious with the outcome and made their views known with the new Party Chair, Harriet Harman.

The Labour Party had already announced in March that it would adopt an all women’s short list with the front runner being Sonika Nirwal. However, as this was a by election and a candidate for Ealing Southall had yet to be announced to replace Piara Khabra, when he stepped down, his untimely death provided the Labour Party with an opportunity to open up the selection process.

The Labour Selection Panel reduced the estimated number of applicants for this safe Labour seat from perhaps as many as 100 to eight candidates on Monday evening. Publicly there were two fairly powerful lobbies – one to ensure a woman was selected and the other to get a Sikh into the Commons, preferably a turban wearing Sikh.

It is understood two of the eight on the long list were women – Sonika Nirwal and Jasbir Anand. Seven of the eight were Sikh, with three turban wearing Sikhs, including Cllr Gurcharan Singh who was widely acknowledged as the person with most support within the local Labour Party membership that would ultimately determine who represented them. Most, but not all, on the long list were local candidates. As there were candidates on the long list that were not local some are asking why excellent candidates, like Dr Harkirtan Singh, who has been short listed before in Denton and Reddish, were excluded on this occasion.

After interviews on Tuesday the Labour Selection Panel surprisingly only named two on the short list to take part in hustings that evening and who would be put to the local Labour Party membership. The hustings on Tuesday night were only for local Labour Party members and reports suggest they proved quite tense as there were many who were upset at the short list. The absence of a woman or turban wearing Sikh in the short list were two of the main concerns.

It has been reported that the Selection Panel wanted somebody similar to the Conservative candidate Tony Lit – “an Asian man with a ‘clean cut’ image”. However, it is been unofficially suggested that part of the thinking was that Sonika Nirwal and Gurcharan Singh had some sort of skeletons in the cupboard that the opposition parties might exploit in the by election. Similar allegations could be made against the candidate selected, but only time will tell what tactics and information the opposition parties use. It is interesting that Labour has chosen to keep media coverage of its chosen candidate very quiet.

As Labour has failed to allow a woman or turbaned Sikh to be in the short list there is a risk that an independent Labour candidate will now stand. Labour has brought this on itself. It has also not been lost on the Sikh community in Ealing Southall and throughout the UK that young Sikh professionals have been overlooked for the one ageing non-Sikh on the long list.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

1:33 pm, July 05, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am extremely disappointed with the conduct of Councillor Sonika Nirwal in this entire matter and how she is playing the sympathy card. As we all know she did not get short listed by the labour party. There were numerous reasons for this but the the main one was her dishonesty. On her website, and the council website she states that she lives in 42 Milford Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB1 3QH. When asked by the selection panel she also stated this was the case. The real truth was this is nothing but a blatant attempt to deceive the labour party, its members and the people of southall Ealing. She in fact lives in Harrow. The question we have to ask of ourselves is that if she can choose to deceive others over a matter of her current address can she be trusted to be truthful and ethical about other matters more important, I for one don’t think so, and I feel that was a view taken by the labour selection panel as well. So please can we lay to rest the talk of how she was robbed of the chance to be the labour candidate, she took care of that herself by lying.

2:00 pm, July 06, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard there was a meeting in Southall last night where several independent Sikh candidates got together to 'elect' their 'official' candidate, even though all their names will be on the ballot paper.

Apparently, it was agreed by the majority that a Dr Jasdev Singh Rai, who heads up some local human rights group, would be the candidate with the best chance of winning.

Dr Rai apparently said 'if the only reason for standing was to split the Labour vote and cause Sharma to lose then he was not interested because he is in it to win it.'

Anyone that understands politics and the Ealing Southall situation know at best he will get a few thousand votes that may influence the final outcome.

Posted by: Anil Sharma

10:08 am, July 07, 2007


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