Labour’s late selections herald a generational shift 

The past 48 hours, at least in the Westminster Bubble, have been about Labour’s  ‘late retirements.’ Under Labour’s rules, if an MP announces they are standing down after a General Election is called, then the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) takes up the role of appointing new candidates. The rationale is that it’s too short a period in which to run a democratic local selection. Why then might MPs announce they’re going so close to an election? This year, one view is that many may have been planning for an autumn election and therefore might have declared over the summer and so been caught off guard. A more cynical view is that many retire late in order to gain leverage with LOTO (the office of the Leader of the Opposition), whilst others want to ensure their successor is to their political liking. What favour can an outgoing Labour MP gain? Well, Keir Starmer will need to appoint at least 40 new peers to the House of Lords to even begin to redress the balance from 14 years of Tory rule and get his legislation through.

None of this is new, of course. This happens under all leaders, but it’s perhaps the scale and ruthlessness of the use of these election-period powers which is grabbing attention. 

What does this all mean? 

Well, a decent number of new candidates in Labour-held seats have been announced which represent a real injection of next-generation talent onto the Labour benches – talent that due to the safe nature of the seats will influence Labour politics for years to come. Big wins for those with local government and trade union backgrounds, a low to zero score for the private sector…

In London, the leader of Camden, Georgia Gould, takes Queen’s Park & Maida Vale; Brent cabinet member, Shama Tatler, Chingford & Wood Green (a top Labour target gain from the Tories); James Asser, Deputy Mayor of Newham and NEC Chair, will run in West Ham & Beckton; former Sadiq Khan and Keir Starmer aide, Uma Kumaran, will run in the new Stratford & Bow seat; and Deidre Costigan, deputy leader of Ealing, will take up the reins in Ealing Southall. This a top-drawer group of future MPs, many if not all of whom I except to see in ministerial roles in due course.

Outside London, long-time activist and regional board member, Lewis Atkinson, takes over in Sunderland Central and the NEC’s Luke Akehurst is imposed in Durham North. Akehurst, a key figure on Labour’s Old Right, was instrumental in the fight to wrestle Labour back from the Corbyn left. Unlike his London counterparts in their new seats, Akehurst’s link to County Durham is tenuous, but his paid role as director of We Believe in Israel has likely led party chiefs to find a safe seat with the lowest Muslim population and lowest proportion of Gaza-related political activism…

As is traditional, it’s been a good week for trade unions, with late selections across the country carved up amongst Labour’s key affiliated bodies. Was it ever thus.

Whilst the left will shout betrayal at the latest round of late parliamentary selections (their favourite pastime), I can only think they’d wished they’d done the same when they had the chance under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. 

Thems the breaks.

If all this seems a bit ‘inside baseball’, most of it will not even register with the general public.

And then, of course, there’s Diane Abbott. 

Several battleground seat candidates have told me the handling of Britain’s first female black MP is coming up on the doorstep. 

It’s been known for some time that the leadership has been trying to engineer an elegant solution, allowing Abbott to retire with grace and plaudits for a remarkable career. And the ‘has she, hasn’t she been barred from running’ debacle has undoubtedly dominated the election news this week. But it’s Labour deputy leader, Angela Rayner’s, comments yesterday which could hold a preview of things to come under a Labour government. In Rayner’s well-prepared interview with ITV, Starmer’s deputy stated she thought Abbott had been poorly treated and should be allowed to run. 

Nobody does internal division quite like the Labour party…

Does all this shift the polls? As I wrote earlier this week, they have not shifted one bit. Today’s YouGov poll for the Times has Labour still on a 25-point lead. 

Interestingly, the poll does show voters like the recent Tory policy blitz, but it doesn’t change their voting intention. Ironically, one could argue this is a ‘reverse Corbyn’ – individual policies are popular, but the overall package is not.