Monday, 29 March 2010

NEC Dumps Reynolds!

The contest to find a replacement for Tory boy James Purnell MP, has led to a bitter row within the higher echelons of the Labour Party. On 17th March, 'The Times' reported that a national executive selection panel, had dumped Jonny Reynolds from the list of candidates hoping to replace Purnell as the MP for the constituency of Stalybridge & Hyde.

The selection panel which met on 15th March, had been set up to conduct interviews and to decide on a final shortlist. Amongst the members of the panel, were former minister Keith Vaz, Paddy Lillis, deputy general secretary of USDAW and Tom Watson, Downing Street`s nominee on the panel. A source who was 'familiar with the discussion' told the newspaper that Reynolds 'had performed poorly' and... 'had not even defended the MP (James Purnell) effectively when asked about questions over his expenses.' It was also claimed that another candidate, Peter Wheeler, who is sponsored by UNITE, 'gave an impressive performance.'

Despite the fact that the NEC special selection panel has 'full delegatory authority to make decisions which cannot be overturned', the newspaper reported that Purnell, with the aid of Lord Peter (Mandy) Mandleson, had forced the leadership to reopen the shortlist so that his 'preferred successor', Jonny Reynolds, was included.

In a statement issued to The Times, Tom Watson, said: "I was not aware that there was an appeals process. But I have been told that Peter Mandleson and James Purnell have demanded that Mr Reynolds be placed on the shortlist. I know of no rule that allows for an appeal once the panel has decided the shortlist." He later quoted guidance from the NEC which stated that the special selection panel had full authority to make decisions which cannot be overturned.

Following the decision to put Reynolds back on the shortlist, two other candidates, Barbara Roche and Floyd Millen, withdrew from the race. We also understand that another candidate, the former Greater Manchester East MEP Glyn Ford, (who failed to make the shortlist despite being endorsed by the UNITE North West Region), has also demanded that he be given the same right of appeal.

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