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16 January 2020

Labour MPs warn that party leadership is “controlling” hustings

The first leadership debate is due to take place in Liverpool this Saturday, but MPs complain of a lack of basic information on the events.

By George Grylls

Following criticism earlier this week that the Labour leadership hustings would only be held in cities and not towns – thus avoiding areas where the party lost seats at the general election – Labour MPs have expressed further concern that the audience selection process remains opaque. They have also questioned the lack of detail on the location and timings of future hustings.

“They’re controlling it, they’ve got an agenda,” said one MP supporting Keir Starmer in reference to senior Labour figures. “They haven’t even told us where it is.”

The party’s National Executive Committee has arranged a timetable for 12 hustings events across the UK and has said that invites will be sent to “members nearer the time”. But there is some confusion over whether local members are invited to attend or have to apply. On Tuesday, the Skwawkbox blog published a piece entitled “Timings announced and applications open for Liverpool Leader/Deputy Leader Hustings” which included a link to a website through which members and registered supporters could supposedly apply to be in the audience. The link did not seem to work.

“Every single member of the Labour party should have a fair shot at getting along to the hustings,” said one MP supporting Lisa Nandy. “With only a limited number of events being held around the country, and only in very specific types of places, it’s vital that absolutely everyone gets the same chance.”

One of the deputy leadership candidates also criticised the delayed announcement of venues, remarking that “it makes diary management a real problem”. Candidates face the task of touring the country in search of either 33 Constituency Labour Party nominations or endorsements from three affiliates (two of which must be trade unions) totalling 5 per cent of the affiliated membership.

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The hustings will be streamed online over the course of the next seven weekends, beginning this Saturday with Liverpool. 

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