'Illusion of choice' accusations as Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron hits out at selection process for his successor

Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron. Photo: JPI Media
Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron. Photo: JPI Media
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The selection process for a new Labour general election candidate in South Yorkshire has been branded an “illusion of choice” after the leaked shortlist did not include anyone who lived there.

Sir Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley, announced earlier this year he would retire at the next general election.

But the selection of someone to stand in his place has caused fury among local party members, who said it breaks a tradition of hundreds of years that Labour candidates have been from the patch.

Mr Barron addressed Jon Lansman, Momentum founder and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, on Twitter.

He said: “As a vocal supporter of local member led democracy, why did you think it was appropriate to not shortlist ANY local members for the upcoming selection in Rother Valley?”

The shortlist for Rother Valley is:

- Chair of Elmet and Rothwell Labour Luke Farley;
- Mayor of Witney and West Oxfordshire councillor Duncan Enright;
- Former MEP candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber Alison Hume, who lives in York;
- Sheffield councillor Sophie Wilson.

Amy Brookes, a local councillor and Rother Valley Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Chairwoman, had put herself forward, alongside fellow councillors Gordon Watson, Dominic Beck and Eve Rose-Keenan.

Only Ms Rose-Keenan made the long list - and was the only constituency candidate - but she did not make the shortlist, although candidates from neighbouring constituencies did.

A Labour source said: “There are candidates on the shortlist from the local area.”

Ms Brookes said: “I think the process is the real problem here, it’s been an illusion of choice. We’ve had a member with true local roots and that’s what we want now - that’s the one thing we want, another local candidate.”

Ms Brookes said the CLP was not allowed to see the longlist and the one CLP member allowed on the selection panel felt their voice could not be heard.

She said: “Rother Valley has had 100 years of Labour candidates, we know what kind of candidates can win, and we want to win.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said on Thursday said: “These fast-tracked selection processes are the only way to ensure democratic selections in such a short space of time. Members will democratically select their candidates with local members on the shortlisting panels."

But Ms Brookes said: “Rother Valley would have had plenty of time to organise their own selection process should the NEC have allowed it, as Sir Kevin Barron announced his intentions in well enough time.

“Yet we’ve been deliberately railroaded and members are unhappy with the false choice now presented to them.”

Previously Mr Beck, a councillor for Wales ward, said the situation was “disappointing” and added: “There’s lots of very capable and able people who have applied and I don’t just talk about me here, it’s just a shame not one of those people will be given even a chance.

“Whoever we get will have to work really hard at the stage. I think in different circumstances, if we were not expecting a General Election any time soon, the process would have been different, that would’ve allowed for more local candidates.”

Meanwhile Hull North’s Diana Johnson has launched a fierce social media campaign to try and retain her seat, after she was triggered for reselection under new Labour rules.

Under the hashtag #WeBackDiana colleagues, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonald, lent their support.

The Hull North shortlist consists of just Ms Johnson and Momentum-backed candidate Aneesa Akbar, who was Hull’s first Asian councillor.

She tweeted: "So pleased to have been shortlisted for Hull North this afternoon. It has been humbling to have the support of members, activists and trade unionists in the city.

"I can't wait to speak to the membership about my vision for the constituency."