The Labour Party has made a last-minute change to how it will select its candidates for the next general election, in a boost for Jeremy Corbyn’s hopes of permanently changing the balance of the parliamentary party.
In a move that will favour candidates with strong ties to unions and to the Labour leadership, Labour has decided that its ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will now shortlist candidates directly, rather than via the longer process of selection committees, explaining to prospective candidates that “we are very likely to find ourselves with a general election over the next few weeks.” While over 100 candidates have already been selected via the usual process, candidates in as-yet unselected seats will chosen by the NEC in the event of a snap election.
Prospective candidates have until today (Friday 6 September) at 5pm to submit their applications to the NEC, which has consisted of a majority of pro-Corbyn figures since January 2018, when three new Corbyn allies were elected to the executive, including Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum.
The change will have a particular impact in key seats where the current Labour MP won’t be standing again: most notably, in Chuka Umunna’s current seat of Streatham, and Kate Hoey’s seat in Vauxhall.
In Streatham – where Umunna had been expected to stand again, before announcing his candidacy in Cities of London and Westminster – it favours the candidate Bell Ribeiro-Addy. As chief of staff and political adviser to Diane Abbott, as well as a Unite rep and former NUS politician, she has the background and standing that the NEC will favour over an outsider to the Corbynite machine. Well-liked by parliamentary colleagues and long considered a favourite for the selection, this all but confirms it. In all likelihood this secures the position of a loyal Corbynista as the MP for Streatham for decades to come.
In the neighbouring South London seat of Vauxhall, meanwhile, Labour will need to select a candidate to replace outgoing MP Kate Hoey, and will leap at the opportunity to swap an outspoken Brexiteer for someone who sings from the same hymn sheet as the leadership.
Just as recent events have given Boris Johnson the opportunity to remodel the Conservative party, this has given Corbyn a window of opportunity to deepen his control of his own.