Don’t stoke the fire, Seddon

I drove through the night to get back to Hull. Had to pick up the new branding for the Prescott Express, which hits the road for the short campaign VERY soon!

So I’ve just got round to watching last night’s Newsnight on the iplayer about the selection of Tristram Hunt as Labour’s PPC for Stoke Central.

The focus of Michael Crick’s  piece seemed to be the unfairness of the selection process when the shortlist has been chosen by the NEC’s Special Selections Panel.

From my recent experience running for Weaver Vale, the SSP chose myself and three local candidates, one of whom went on to get selected as the candidate. (I came second with 77 votes to 46 – not bad for the 15 days we had to campaign.)

So I really feel for Tristram. He’s a high profile candidate and, no doubt, would make an excellent MP for Stoke Central – you can read his very impressive letter to members at the excellent A Very Public Sociologist.

But the sneering coverage Hunt’s had to put up with whilst running for this seat and Leyton and Wanstead, is very disappointing – especially when it’s stoked up by party members who should know better.

It wasn’t Tristram who chose to stand down at the last minute denying the local members more of a direct say over his replacement. In fact no-one’s to blame as Mark Fisher was forced to step down on health grounds.

However, I do think we should consider looking at co-opting the local party chair onto SSPs to give the CLP a greater input into drawing up the shortlist. This would also probably have prevented the fallout from the original Stalybridge and Hyde selection.

But what made me really angry was the whining of former NEC member Mark Seddon – who didn’t make the shortlst for Stoke Central – launching a vicious and personal attack on the selection process, and by implication, Tristram.

He told that well know left-wing periodical the Evening Standard:

“An unelected peer, Lord Mandelson, is choosing the candidate for Stoke, showing contempt for the Labour Party and treating the city as a rotten borough.

“This is political corruption of the highest order, and is a gift to the BNP. Gordon Brown and the Labour NEC need to re-start the selection process, or let Mandelson place his friends where he wants them.”

How did I find these comments online? Simple – they’re currently being highlighted on the blog of the BNP’s Deputy Leader Simon Darby, who is mounting a challenge for the seat.

Seddon also went on Newsnight last night to hammer home the point. (you can watch the interview below here – 28:44 in.)

He’d obviously been working hard to get himself onto the shortlist by pushing out the story that Gordon had told him recently that he should be in the Commons.

But Mark’s got form for running to the media when he doesn’t make the shortlist. Ironically Charles Clarke, Party Chair at the time, said the reason the SSP didn’t choose him for the Ogmore by-election was because the CLP wanted a local candidate!

So Mark, do as I did. Take the knockback with grace, get campaigning for the fourth term and try not to give ammunition to an extreme right wing party.


One comment

  1. tombennett

    Michael Crick’s piece had an interesting counterpoint in Paul Mason’s report earlier in the week “What’s wrong with Britain?” which also visited Stoke. No one interviewed in Crick’s report came over as being overly bothered about dealing with the root cause of the BNP’s support in Stoke. “the local economy, stupid.” At least Hunt has a very good counter to the BNP’s brainless quick-fix message when he says “What high-tech firms would want to locate here? What new teachers, doctors or police officers would want to work here with a BNP Member of Parliament?”

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