Saturday, April 25, 2009

Erith and Thamesmead: Five More Years For John Austin?

Been keeping quiet about the Gouldy-locks and the Three Bears morality tale of selection shenanigans - involving seats to be won, beds to lie in, and porridge to be served - from Labour in Erith and Thamesmead.

But following today's John Harris/Emine Saner story in the Guardian extending postal vote anecdotes to ... two that man Alex Hilton PPC from the highly respected LabourHome blog, not to mention the thoroughly disreputable Dorries-baiting Recess Monkey, has made a shock call for a "rip it up and start again" decision.

Is the man Hilton acting under orders from Charlie Whelan or Alastair Campbell is what I want to know? Or from local man Pete Willsman perhaps? Or from his dearly beloved colleague Guido Fawkes and behind him Andy Coulson?

[CLARIFICATION 23:47]The above para was only in jest. Hilton is acting alone.[/CLARIFICATION]

Whatever. I'm not convinced. I'm not sure re-starting this selection from scratch is the answer to Labour's recovery from this situation. It doesn't make the circus leave town, it makes it stay another couple of months.

I do however have some other ideas. Now read on.

Why would a restart be problematic?

A. It could certainly add a couple of months for a proper submission process, meet the candidates, long listing, initial hustings, ward by ward meetings, nominations from branches and affiliates, and then the final run in and hustings;

B. It would also mean that the majority of funds and time invested by eight individuals and their supporters could be wasted;

C. The immense patience of the membership in this traditional Labour constituency party could be tried to breaking point. It's a tense time. nerves will be frayed already. Old friends may be at each others' throats;

D. The opportunities for already selected rivals from the Tories and Lib Dems to make hay would be increased;

E. Such a decision might intrinsically favour a certain candidate or candidates, and increase the window for the carve up brigade to get busier still.

What questions need asking and answering?

1. Is a poll on LabourHome on such a matter really a good idea? By definition this should be "just for fun" given the piss poor methodology, self-selecting sample and the free access for enemies within and outwith the broad Labour church.

But there is a history of such polls making front page news and being represented as the scientifically tested views of Labour Party members. One incident arguably being the catalyst for Derek Draper to start blogging ... aaaaargh!

2. What does the constituency party now want to happen? And I'm not just thinking of the officers or the executive or even the General Management Committee.

3. What do the existing eight candidates now want to happen? Three or four of them will probably understand that their prospects are limited. Three more weeks is one thing but another three months? And would it be fair as Alex suggests to re-open nominations and find another 20, 50, 100 applicants?

4. Could the incumbent John Austin realise how much he would miss parliament and how much more he has to offer to the people of Erith and Thamesmead? Could he withdraw his retirement and get an immediate endorsement from all concerned?

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