Labour's national executive committee ends one row, and starts another

Labour's ruling NEC have made two unifying decisions in removing Chris Williamson and Roger Godsiff but have started a risky fight in Bassetlaw. 

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Labour’s ruling national executive committee has barred MPs Chris Williamson, Stephen Hepburn and Roger Godsiff from standing as candidates. Williamson had been suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after a series of remarks that fuelled discontent about the Labour party within the Jewish community, including claims that the party had been “too apologetic” in its handling of anti-Semitism, and after he attacked critics of one suspended activist as “white privileged”. Hepburn had been suspended following accusations of sexual harassment.

Godsiff is a somewhat different case: he had lost his trigger ballot but was yet to face a full selection process. Other MPs in that group such as Emma Lewell-Buck and Kate Osamor have had their triggers undone, but Godsiff was treated differently because he had already been chastised by the chief whip, Nick Brown, for supporting anti-LGBT protestors who picketed a Birmingham school. That, unlike other triggered MPs, Godsiff was considered highly unlikely to win his selection contest was also a factor in the minds of some members of the NEC.

But a big row may be brewing over the NEC’s decision to strip Sally Gimson, a Camden councillor, of the Bassetlaw candidacy, just days after members of the Bassetlaw constituency Labour party voted to elect her as their candidate. Gimson was not informed of the charges against her – she is accused of shouting at a disabled activist while chairing a meeting in her home constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, a charge she denies – until after having her candidacy stripped. The complaint was levelled by a member of her home CLP, who works for the Labour party. Members of both the Bassetlaw constituency and her London constituency have made representations in her support, as rumours swirl that she is to be replaced by Keir Morrison, who she defeated in the selection.

The decision is a risky one. It will eat into the unifying, feelgood factor around the decision to remove the candidacies of Godsiff and Williamson (while a pocket on the right and left of the party respectively are defenders of the two men, my strong impression is that most Labour activists are keen to see the back of both) and that MPs and favoured candidates have been let off for worse has left some Bassetlaw members feeling that Gimson’s real offense is to win the selection against the leadership’s favoured son. That disaffection might yet come back to haunt the leadership if Bassetlaw is again a close fight.  

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.