As many of you will be aware, for the last year in particular I’ve been doing what I can in the hopes of being selected as a Labour Party potential parliamentary candidate for the next election. This weekend, with the last few seats decided, it became clear that had not worked out.
It’s a journey that has taught me a lot, both about politics and myself – and the very idiosyncratic nature of Labour Party selections at this particular time, with the party racing to fill seats in the run up to the December 12 election.
That has meant many of the decisions being taken centrally by the party National Executive Committee or other parts of its central decision-making apparatus. That has been not unreasonable given the time constraints, but has inevitably often cut local party activists and structures out of the decision-making process, sometimes almost completely.
It’s no secret that has prompted some widespread frustration, not to mention complaints of nepotism and seats being “stitched up” – although some very good, often young candidates are being selected. Going forward, it seems clear to me and many others that the party needs a robust, democratically accountable system for attracting, building and processing potential MPs- particularly if, as seems likely, more snap elections will be a feature of this unpredictable political era.
As for me, I’ll be out campaigning in various places during the election, doing what I can. So far that includes running a fundraiser in Vauxhall, providing some support to Newbury and whatever campaign or other activity Labour Friends of the Forces can pull together. I’ll also be collecting research material for an MA in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University I’ve also recently begun.
For all its challenges, standing has been a broadly empowering, fascinating and rewarding experience – even if it hasn’t worked. There will of course the other elections, and I may well try again – although there are also other things I might well want to do. If I’m honest, there’s still a lot I’m processing this experience, and will write more on it in due course.
I was disappointed not to make the seven person long list selected by the party in my home constituency of Vauxhall, but glad to be able to throw my support behind the eventual winner Florence Eshalomi. The first person born in the area to contest the seat in decades, she beat off multiple well resourced established candidates, and will be exactly the kind of MP diverse and often marginalized communities here so badly need.
Unlike in multiple other constituencies, Vauxhall’s members were able to vote to make that decision. Elsewhere, in places where the decision has had to be made last minute, it has been primarily by regional and national party coordinators alongside the constituency party secretary. That’s a process that has not always been transparent – and to be honest, I’m still finding out details of what exactly happened in some of the other constituencies I went for.
Beyond that, I’m lucky enough to have a range of other opportunities – not least because, much to my relief, my health is at its best in years. Only five years ago, I was stuck on bed rest for sometimes days at a time with pressure-related skin problems, simultaneously building a think tank with the help of volunteer interns. And 13 years ago, of course, I was in hospital shortly after the injury, far from certain I would ever be able to live independently at all.
Life like this will always be a challenge, particularly in my situation. But I’m hugely grateful to all of those who supported, helped and otherwise encouraged me on this process. I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get the result you wanted, but I do believe that taking part has really counted.
It is now a month and a day until the election. I’d encourage anyone who believes a Labour Party victory is the best option for the country to get out on doorsteps, persuade colleagues, neighbours and friends to also do so and to vote for us. This is one of the most unpredictable elections in living memory, and we really have a chance to make a difference and change the path this country is on for the better.