THE old story was that Frank Dobson delayed his resignation speech this summer because he didn’t want his farewell moment to clash with England’s World Cup match with Costa Rica. If that’s true, he need not have worried about local Labour members putting the England national team ahead of the serious matter of who will be representing them at next year’s general election. For tonight they were out in good numbers, not watching England play Scotland, but at the first wave of neighbourhood branch meetings where nominations were made for the Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary selection contest.
Predictably, three of the front-runners we’ve been talking about since Frank dropped his farewell speech – heck, before that even – all scored heavily. And they were all delighted to have won so many noms, as displayed with the customary levels of aw-shucksiness on Twitter. Of course, in reality the spread did not really teach us that much new about how this intriguing contest’s endgame will pan out. Every branch had to nominate at least one woman and it’s been said that beyond council leader Sarah Hayward, there hasn’t been a lot of strength to choose from on the list of hopefuls in that regard. She can’t help that. It’s not her fault. She has a record of encouraging more women to get involved in politics.
Every branch also votes for a man, so that they have two candidates to put forward. Then, and here’s where the system is also potentially a benefit to Raj Chada, branches get to add a third name if an ethnic minority candidate has not been chosen in the first two votes. It would surely look odd for any branch not to take up this option. Again, although Raj was not the only ethnic minority candidate among the applicants, most members have not considered the alternative choices as serious contenders. So far. There are more nomination meetings in other branches on Wednesday night.
Again, this is all not an attempt to pour water on Raj or Sarah’s success this evening. These are just the rules, and it was always likely that those two, alongside Sir Keir Starmer, were going to get a nomination from most, or all, of the wards.
The interesting one was in Highgate where Dr Patrick French, the dark horse, was nominated ahead of Sir Keir in Highgate. This had been on the cards and was not greeted with great shock, as Dr Patrick is popular and naturally better known in his home neighbourhood. That’s good news for him, given Highgate has a good concentration of members.
And you know what a few people are saying in the backstage gossip? One theory, and if you’re a Dr Patrick fan cling to this, goes that Sarah and Sir Keir are not the kind of candidates people will put down as second preferences. You either like the idea of the former DPP taking on Frank’s mantle here, or you don’t. Same with Sarah, some love her, some don’t, but there’s not much in between, so this long-shot theory goes, while Dr Patrick could collect significant proportions of second prefs from those backing one of the leading three. Cards on the table, I’ve had that suggested to me from three different switched-on members, but I couldn’t tell you how much weight it really holds. Either way, a nomination in Highgate is a good stake in the ground for a candidate who has had less press coverage, and no celebrity profile or council work to parade at opportune moments. A shrewd bookmaker would be trimming his longer odds ever so slightly.