Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ealing Comedy: Hustings Heckling Hustle Bustle

LOL have now identified most of the "shortlist of all the talents" assembled by, I think, Tom Watson MP (as agent); Keith Vaz MP, Mike Griffiths and Norma Stephenson (as NEC Members), Julian Bell (Piara Khabra's RHM, as local advice) and possibly Regional Director Ken Clark ensuring "fair play". Thanks to Unity for fingering the NEC people.

Vivender Sharma and Jo Sidhu clearly. Who will I think face a witheringly small turn out at today's members' ballot. Sonika Nirwal and Jasbir Anand, natch. Tom's man from Sandwell. One Tony Singh, another carpet bagger. Inderjeet Nijar an ex-Cllr. And Gucharan Singh, again natch.

So eight not ten. 100% Indian (and I'm hearing a narrow miss for one or two Muslims - too racey). 6/8th local. 7/8ths Sikh. And something like 3/8 visible Turbaned Sikh.

Regional Director Ken Clark (no relation) was introduced to Chair the hustings and heckled mercilessly from the off. Mostly from the followers of Gucharan Singh. Things like: "Giants have been left out!"

Their hero? Traced, turban and all to a Punjab Time watering hole - The Indian Workers' Association - where he was simultaneously rejoicing that Sonika had also not made the cut and manfully drowning his own sad separatist sorrows.

Sharma repeated quote of the day:
"I'm very sad and disappointed about ..." whatever was raised by a questioner.

Sidhu (41) charm offensive:
"Vote for the Future, not for the Past" and the messianic "I am this community. I am your Son."

Why did this outcome occur? Many would have expected at least Sonika and Gurcharan to make the final shortlist. My impression is that both were quite popular and could have won.

But both might be viewed as a potential liability.

In the face of hostile media attention. And in the face of hostile campaigning that we have already seen from the Yellow and Blue Tories. The only way to eliminate the risk was to spike them at shortlisting stage. But of course that decision has its own risks attached.

Clearly there are two ways it could go now! The long established Hindu gentleman. Or the up and at 'em Sikh youth of 41. Latter would only win on the face of it if all disappointed candidates get their tribes out to vote down the other fella. On the other hand I'd probably pick him of the two if I had a vote. And he is the local party's son. That should count for something.


Unity said...

There's a different list for the NEC panel doing the rounds.

Vaz, yes, but with Mike Griffiths and Norma Stephenson instead of Clark and Bell.

Tom's running the campaign and Clark would have chaired the hustings but not have been there in a decision-making role.

Luke Akehurst said...

I think you may have missed the strongest points of our Roger Hargreaves candidates, "Mr. None" and "Mr. Ricin".

Chris Paul said...

"Luke": Perhaps you could explain this Mr Hakefirst?

Unity: Yes add Stephenson and Griffiths! That was a kite and it caught the breeze.

Anonymous said...

Julian Bell was nowt to do with it, I'm pretty sure of that. Parmjit Danda was at yesterday's hustings meeting though.

Chris Paul said...

Thanks Rupa. Don't you think Julian would have been inputting local knowledge at some point? If not Julian then who did that? Or did they shortlist WITHOUT deep and wide local knowledge?

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting last night and it was a disgrace to local democracy. As you say, as soon as the two candidate shortlist was announced, the regional director was subjected to continuous heckling, to the point that 'heavies' were brought in to threaten protestors with ejection from the room. After this, the hustings proceeded normally although both candidates had to field questions requesting their views on the process for parliamentary candidate selection.

When the formal hustings meeting finished, the regional director invited members present to discuss their issues regarding the selection procedure with him in a corner of the hall. This was to his credit as obviously he was facing a very hostile audience. At least a third of the members present for the hustings chose to stay on for this discussion. Initially there were some ridiculous moments when the regional director appeared to refuse to use a microphone to speak even though most of the members assembled in the corner of the room clearly could not hear him. It was hard not to see this as a crass attempt to stifle debate in the most literal sense of making the conversation inaudible.

Even once the microphone was switched on, the discussion didn't really achieve much other than give people a chance of voice their frustrations with the truncated shortlist. We were told repeatedly that the shortlisted candidates had been subjected to intense questioning, including mock TV interviews, and that only two had emerged from this process as viable contenders.

The most poignant comment I heard was from a guy who said he'd being paying his subs for years and faithfully supporting Khabra throughout his tenure. He'd been looking forward to his once-in-a-decade chance to exercise his right to help choose a new candidate for a high profile seat only to be offered a crude choice of two opposites - 'old' or 'young'.

So much for diversity. I'm sure it's all been said before why could the local party members not be trusted to pick the best candidate from a wider field? Alternatively, if the views of media consultants are so critical, why are they not involved in the selection of other parliamentary candidates? The contrast with the transparent selection process in the neighbouring Ealing Acton constituency could not be more stark - their members were even allowed to vote on who should make the shortlist for the interviews.

Chris Paul said...

Thanks for that. Clearly the Ealing Acton experience is the normal one and branches and affiliates nominate - forming the longlist, the CLP GC may decide the length of the shortlist if there are too many left in with legitimate nominations.

Can't happen like that in a quick by-election. And for LP there was a need to respect Piara's death. And no incumbent candidate as the LDs had.

In a truncated process there is no time for the selectorate to make the right decision - indeed arguably that's the case with any and all as there are one or two duff decisions.

The membership in ES - some of whom I'm told hardly even realise they ARE members - would not have the Lib Dem killing skills of Watson or the appreciation of what can happen in 15 days of dirty campaigning.

Believe me the Lib Dems and the Tories would have had a field day with any of the three next closest local candidates.

From a distance I'd prefer the young 'un as the risk of having less of a track record may not be as great as having a long one!

I'm gutted that there is no woman in the shortlist. But I think the interview panel would have had to look beyond the two front runners to get someone safe enough for by-election action.

Anonymous said...

Is the comment over on ukpolling at 1.43 pm from 'Atiq' that Virendra Sharma has got it, untrue then?

Anonymous said...

"Believe me the Lib Dems and the Tories would have had a field day with any of the three next closest local candidates"

What was wrong with Sonika Nirwall?

Unity said...

Polling doesn't close until 8pm and I think you'll find that Atiq is likely to be the Atiq Malik who got very vocal on Tory Home about Tony Lit because (so he claimed) he had designs on challenging as the Tory candidate.

Chris Paul said...

Hi Andrea: I don't want to go into what the Lib Dems and Tories would have SAID was wrong with Sonika. Or GS or JA for that matter. Any or all of them may live to fight another day. In this seat or another. But there are attack lines for all.

Unity has covered the Sharma winning thing. I'm told his wiki did call him the candidate at one point this morning. But it has been corrected to one of two short-listed OWTTE.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I understand you can't repeat in a public forum potential attacks against Sonika Nirwall.
Knowing the LDs they would have used everything out there to create momentum and undermine the candidate (like in Bromley against the Tory candidate weakness)

Is Tom Watson in charge of the campaign, right? Hopefully the campaign materials won't be at the Hodge Hill level..I've seen some leaflets for the Hodge Hill byelections and they would have pushed me to vote LDs
(especially as I mistook a Lab leaflet for a BNP thing)

Anonymous said...

"Polling doesn't close until 8pm"

when is the result expected to be declared?
The duration of the count can depend on the turnout. However being a 2 men shortlist, it will be decided on first preferences.

Anonymous said...

well, making the comments in a row (never a good thing!), according to a poster on LabourHome Virendra Sharma has won the Lab nomination

Chris Paul said...

That was the most likely outcome by far with that shortlist. I'm interested to see the numbers.

Anonymous said...

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

Some say that is low for Ealing Southall, others say that is reasonable.

Total membership in excess of 2,000.

Chris Paul said...

Does sound pretty low sided. As predicted. A while ago I was speaking to someone who did some 'phone canvassing for one of the ('Deshi not Sikh) candidates in the Bethnal Green and Bow ting. And they found that whole streets worth of "members" didn't even realise they were members. They were just XY or Z's "gang". And that was AFTER they had knocked out more than 40% of the membership as ineligible to take part, having been contrived!

Just think what these gangs do for the Party's core membership that is really joined up.

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)

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

Anonymous said...

Have made a few enquiries about this Dr Rai. My Sikh friends say he is an opportunist that many do not trust. He will no doubt play the Sikh card. But local Gurdwaras do not like him and no way will Sikhs support him enmasse.

Even the Sikh Federation (UK) who has been active on these blogs more often than not do not see eye to eye with him. In fact some of my Sikh friends suggest they detest each other.

Posted by: Anil Sharma

Anonymous said...

Upon further digging it emerges Dr Jasdev Singh Rai not only heads up a human rights group - Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG), he also headed up a terrorist Khalistani organisation - the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) in the late 1980s. In fact some have confirmed the original name of the human rights group was Sikh Human Rights Group (ISYF) as it was the ISYF's human rights wing.

During his time in the ISYF people in Southall and west London will remember a few of its members were imprisoned for a very long time for 'taking out' political opponents. Hopefully, he will not resort to these tactics in Ealing Southall, even though it will be dirty!

If the media and my name sake look into this I can see him pulling out, which must do Labour some good.

The local police and Special Branch no doubt know him well and will keep an eye on him and his supporters!

Posted by: Anil Sharma

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