Upcoming candidate selection contests

There are at least two keenly awaited Labour candidate selection contests this Saturday in Bradford and Neath, followed by a Conservative candidate selection in Bury St Edmunds next Tuesday evening.

Little publicly available information has been forthcoming on the Bradford East contest, perhaps related to the on-going problems in the local party (see this 2 October piece from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus). The longlisted candidates for the seat have been reported by Urban Echo. Bradford East, currently held by Liberal Democrat MP David Ward, is 10th on Labour’s official target seat list and is the last one of the party’s official 106 targets to select a candidate.

Given the lack of build-up it looks unlikely that Bradford Labour Party will also be selecting their candidates in Bradford South (to replace the retiring MP, Gerry Sutcliffe) and Bradford West (to fight by-election victor, George Galloway) at the same meeting.

The Labour contest on Saturday (1 November) in the safe seat of Neath to select a replacement for the retiring Peter Hain has attracted more publicity. See Wales Online and The Times (£) for further detail about the shortlisted candidates.

Looking ahead to early next week, the Conservatives are due to select a new candidate in Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday 4 November following David Ruffley announcing that he is not standing at the election. ConservativeHome has the details of the shortlist or the East Anglian Daily Times if you prefer a more local take.


New MORI poll suggests 54 SNP MPs (that’s 48 new MPs)

Once they are selected, the plan was to include 21 SNP candidates in this research as potentially “winnable” having considered the existing data. But this might need a bit of a rethink and a significant upgrade on the basis of this poll. Remember that the SNP currently only has 6 Westminster MPs.

In case you’re thinking that this might be a rogue poll, it might be of course. It was conducted between 22 and 29 October with the news on 24 October that Johann Lamont was to resign as leader of the Scottish Labour Party just breaking and being assessed. But Ipsos MORI have a good record…

Note that with 1026 participants the margin of error on this poll is only 3%, so clearly something very significant is happening in Scottish politics right now.


New members allowed role in selection of SNP candidates

A procedural change in the selection of SNP candidates suggests that we are still some weeks or even months away from having any SNP Westminster parliamentary candidates in place for the 2015 General Election campaign.

The Herald reports that the 60,000 or so new members of the party since the referendum will be allowed to vote and actively encouraged to participate in the selection of candidates. The party leadership is fully expected to recommend waiving the “13 month rule” (a minimum period of membership before full voting rights are given) when the party gathers for its annual conference in Perth on 13-15 November.

At least two of the three candidates for the deputy leadership of the SNP – Keith Brown and Stewart Hosie – have both stated their support for new members to be actively involved in the selection process. In a recent campaign video, Stewart Hosie made the issue one of the central planks of his election platform.

Whether speculation that Westminster SNP candidates have already been pre-selected is correct or not, clearly the process to select PPCs is going to be further delayed until nearer Christmas or even into the New Year to allow for wider selection contests. With the SNP enjoying a significant post-referendum bounce in support and continued internal problems within the Scottish Labour Party following the surprise resignation of Johann Lamont, it is forecast that the SNP could potentially make significant gains on polling day. With improved prospects of victory in a number of seats, there could be heightened interest in standing for selection. In recent days there has even been speculation that Alex Salmond could seek a return to the House of Commons after he avoided ruling out running for a Westminster seat.


The retread MPs hoping for a return to Parliament

The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail both run a piece today focusing on seven former Labour MPs and two former Liberal Democrat members who lost their seats at the 2010 General Election, but who as so-called retread MPs, are re-standing in May 2015 in the hope of getting back into the House of Commons.

Telegraph 29 October 2014Daily Mail 29 October 2014

There are a total of 19 identified former MPs hoping for another chance in 2015. Fourteen of them are former Labour MPs who all bar one lost narrowly in 2010, three are Liberal Democrats, one is a Conservative (Boris Johnson) and one was an Independent MP.

The full list is below:

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Profile of Labour’s Lee Sherriff, PPC for Carlisle

Lee Sherriff Guardian 27 October 2014I’ve just seen this profile piece from yesterday’s Guardian on Lee Sherriff, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Carlisle. The seat is Labour’s 15th ranked target and Lee Sherriff is hoping to oust Conservative MP John Stevenson who has represented the city since beating Labour at the 2010 General Election.

The article points out that Cumbria has never had a female MP and indeed is the only county in England to have never had one. It’s also worth noting that her sister Paul Sherriff is the Labour candidate in its 21st target seat of Dewsbury.


Several likely future MPs selected

This weekend saw several candidates selected that will in all likelihood be future MPs after May 2015. They all replace sitting MPs who are not re-standing and all have supposedly large majorities, although one is likely to come under considerable pressure from UKIP.

Harry Harpham, Labour PPC for Sheffield Brightside & HillsboroughHarry Harpham, David Blunkett’s successor in Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, was selected last night as the Labour PPC. Harpham is a former Nottinghamshire striking miner, researcher to David Blunkett and Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council. Labour had a majority of 13,591 votes (27.2% majority) at the 2010 General Election over the Liberal Democrats. (http://www.harryharpham.com/, @sheffharry)

Alan Mak, Conservative PPC for HavantAlan Mak was selected at an Open Primary (open to all voters in the constituency) as the Conservative PPC for Havant. David Willetts, the sitting MP and former Minister, leaves behind a Conservative majority of 12,160 (27.7%) in the seat that he has represented since 1992. The Cambridge University educated, former lawyer and businessman looks likely to be a lively new member of the Commons after 2015. (http://www.alanmak.org.uk/, @AlanMak4MP, @AlanMakUK)

Matt, Warman, Conservative PPC for Boston & SkegnessMatt Warman, the consumer technology editor at the Daily Telegraph, was chosen to stand as the Conservative candidate in Boston and Skegness on Saturday. He has worked at the Telegraph since graduating from the University of Durham in 2004. Although seemingly inheriting a 12,426 (28.8%) majority from the retiring Mark Simmonds, the seat is one of UKIP’s top dozen target seats. UKIP are selecting their candidate on 13 November and the hopefuls include the colourful former Conservative MP for Tatton, Neil Hamilton. (http://www.mattwarman.net/, @mattwarman).

Carolyn Harris, Labour PPC for Swansea EastCarolyn Harris has been selected as the Labour PPC for Swansea East replacing Sîan James who is standing down. Harris inherits a 10,838 (33.2%) majority from her former boss, having worked as Sian James’ parliamentary assistant and constituency manager since her election in 2005. Previously she was a charity and community worker. (www.carolynharris4labour.co.uk, @carolynharris24)

I’ve recently learnt that Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh, was not re-selected for the seat that he has held since 2005. It’s not clear whether he stood down voluntarily or was de-selected, but he’ll be counted amongst those MPs who are retiring in 2015.

Mickey Brady, Sinn Fein PPC for Newry & ArmaghHis replacement, Mickey Brady, was selected last week in the seat that Sinn Féin defended in 2010 with a 8,331 votes (18.6%) majority over the SDLP. Brady has been the Northern Ireland Assembly member for Newry & Armagh since 2007. As with all previous Sinn Féin MPs elected, he is not expected to formally take his seat in Westminster. (@MickeyBradyMLA)


New Conservative candidate vacancy

The news this afternoon that Sir Richard Shepherd is to stand down at the next election (as reported in the Express and Star), creates a Conservative candidate vacancy in the West Midlands seat of Aldridge-Brownhills with a very attractive 15,266 majority (39.5% majority).

Richard Shepherd

Sir Richard is the 31st Conservative MP not re-standing in General Election 2015 and means that 75 current MPs are not seeking re-election.


Four retirement seat candidates to be selected this weekend

At least three of the four candidates to be selected this weekend are all but guaranteed to be Members of Parliament at the UK General Election in May 2015. They are all being selected in constituencies where the current MP is standing down:

  • Conservative PPC for Boston & Skegness to replace Mark Simmonds MP (12,426 or 28.8% majority), although it is one of UKIP’s top 12 target seats – ConHome has provided the shortlist of four
  • Conservative PPC for Havant to replace David Willetts MP (12,160 or 27.7% majority) – again, ConHome has the shortlist of four
  • Labour PPC for Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough, following the announced retirement next year of David Blunkett MP (13,632 or 35% majority) – the shortlist of three comes courtesy of the Sheffield Telegraph
  • Labour PPC for Swansea East where Siân James is standing down, (leaving a 10,838 or 33.2% majority).

EDIT: Updated to include Swansea East.


Less than a third of GE2015 candidates (so far) are women

Since I lasted posted about the overall number of candidates selected by the three main parties in September, there has been little apparent improvement in the last four weeks (based on publicly available information). The table below assumes that the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems will ideally wish to field a candidate in every constituency in England, Scotland and Wales (632 seats). It also assumes that all currently sitting MPs will be re-selected. Overall, Labour have only 12% (77) of PPCs to select, the Tories have 28% (179) and the Liberal Democrats are languishing behind with a massive 69% (438) of constituencies still to select a candidate. At this rate you have to wonder whether the Lib Dems intend to fight every seat. I fully concede that there may be a few more selected candidates that have gone unpublicised but the trend is clear. Also included below for the first time is the gender balance of PPCs selected so far (71% male, 29% female). None of the parties fare particularly well, although Labour is clearly out front with 36% of PPCs being women. Whilst noteworthy it does not of course translate to anything substantive unless they are actually elected at the General Election.

PPCs (as at 22/10/14) All Conservative Labour Lib Dems
PPCs selected 1202 63% 453 72% 555 88% 194 31%
PPCs to select 694 37% 179 28% 77 12% 438 69%
Total expected PPCs 1896 100% 632 100% 632 100% 632 100%
PPCs (inc current MPs) male 851 71% 350 77% 356 64% 145 75%
PPCs (inc current MPs) female 351 29% 103 23% 199 36% 49 25%
Total PPCs selected 1202 100% 453 100% 555 100% 194 100%

The perils of predicting the future political stars

One of the most interesting aspects of sifting through the winnable parliamentary candidates in any election is to try and pick the future political stars. Many will not be elected to Parliament in the first place and so their infant political careers will fall at the first hurdle (the Lords may beckon for some but this has limitations for a career in politics). Some will be elected and may make a valuable contribution as junior ministers and backbenchers, perhaps serving their constituents well, but will rarely register with the collective consciousness of the nation. A select few though will be destined to become household names, attaining the highest ministerial offices in the land and perhaps even the top job.

Picking them can be problematic though. In 2008 a now infamous ‘Tatler Tories’ article was published featuring ten Conservative hopefuls selected as the next generation of Tory stars. Unfortunately for Tatler magazine only two of the ten were successfully elected, and one of those now has a tough fight to defend her seat in 2015. None of the other eight are currently restanding in winnable constituencies, although former No.10 adviser Shaun Bailey has been actively seeking a nomination for GE2015. This lack of success led the Daily Mail dubbing it the ‘Curse of the Tatler A-listers who failed to make it to Westminster’ – although they chose to only feature one picture and half of the candidates (all of whom failed to be elected) to emphasise the point.

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