Saturday, 18 April 2009

Erith and Thamesmead like ferrets in a sack

The BBC can't decide how to pronounce Erith; we've had both ear-ith and Erith-as-in-Eric this morning. Whichever, it's a 'safe' Labour seat with a majority, based on 2005 voting preferences, of nearly 10,000 following boundary changes.

There are 73,935 voters registered and the Constituency Labour Party has 279 members - 0.38% of the electorate, bang in line with Labour's national membership (170k members out of 45m electors see this post for electoral stats)

There are eight all-wimmin candidates fighting for the votes of those 279 local members; the Bexley Times profiles them:
Now Georgia Gould, 22, a Masters student at the London School of Economics, will have to battle it out among seven other candidates.

These include physiotherapist and trade union Unite officer Rachael Maskell, who is believed to be backed by Gordon Brown's former press secretary Charlie Whelan.

Ex-Bexley councillor Teresa Pearce is also on the list and was the first Chair of the Erith and Thamesmead Labour group when it was set up in 1994.

Plumstead councillor and language teacher Angela Cornforth is one of two Greenwich councillors in the race.

Her fellow councillor on the list Jagir Sekhon became the first Sikh female mayor in Britain when she became mayor of Greenwich in 2000.

Former Labour candidate for Orpington in 2005 and cancer campaigner Emily Bird is another Unite member in the running. She was born in Eltham and is a former pupil of Crown Woods School in Riefield Road.

She competes against Kensington and Chelsea councillor Marianne Alapini who was the Labour candidate for the Tory seat of Woking last year before withdrawing to run for Erith and Thamesmead. She is originally from Kenya and represents the Colville ward which is on the Notting Hill carnival route.

And former MP Melanie Johnson hopes to return to office after losing her Welwyn Hatfield seat four years ago which she held since 1997.

She was also a minister for six years in the treasury, health and industry departments, where she shaped new laws to take action against loan sharks.
And no surprise they're fighting like ferrets in a sack, with today's selection election postponed because a ballot box at Labour's central HQ has been tampered with.

Now if ever there was a better argument for open primaries than Erith and Thamesmead I've yet to find it. Both Newms and Dan Hannan have long advocated these, and in this constituency the process would give local voters the chance of picking a candidate who meant something to them. As Dan wrote:
The arguments for open primaries are, when you think about them, pretty obvious. They ensure that you have a candidate who is liked by a decent chunk of the constituency, not just by your activists. Those who participate in the selection process come to feel proprietorial about “their” candidate, and have a stake in his or her success: the Warrington South Conservative Association has 200 active new members as a direct result of the selection process. And, of course, the very fact of the primary generates an enormous amount of local media interest, thus giving the candidate a head-start.
It really is time for reform.

Sunder Katwala over at Next Left agrees about open primaries - whatever next!


King Horse said...

If it's all-wimmin, doesn't that leave womyn out?

What about transgenders, are they deemed acceptable?

Blue Eyes said...

I agree, but I am not sure this is an area for legislation. It surely should be up to the parties to decide how they select their own candidates. After all, it is not a close system. If the local electorate like none of the candidates they can always put up someone else.

Newmania said...

This was in the New Statesman ( on the subject of Mz Gould )
Greenslade Comments…
How can you empathise with your constituents’ job insecurity if you have never had a job to lose? Similarly, no elected representative can truly understand the significance of rising fuel and food prices and the importance of interest rates if he or she is still living at home and has never had a mortgage or the responsibility of running a household budget..My ideas on electoral reform were motsly taken from Frank Field`s writing on it . I am a bear of little brain myself.
Sunder is rather good isn't he

William Gruff said...

'Primaries' are attractive to those who wish to 're-invigorate' party politics but offer nothing to those who wish to militate against the same.

A gimmick that results in an increase in the membership of one political party or another is unlikely to be seen by the wider electorate as advancing the interests of those who are not 'members'.