As the Labour Party Conference starts this weekend in Brighton questions are being asked about the lack of local Labour candidates being selected in the run up to the 2015 General Election.
In an email, seen by Andover Town, the Chairman of the NW Hants Constituency Labour Party tells party members ”For the first time in many years, we do not have a local candidate. We will, therefore, have to consider outside candidates.”
This has also been evident in other parts of the South, an area where Labour has historically polled poorly. John Denham MP (Lab, Southampton Itchen) revealed earlier this year that he was standing down from Parliament at the next general election after holding his seat since 1992.
While many local party members, including Southampton City Councillors put themselves forward for selection, the candidate eventually chosen was Rowenna Davis, a Councillor in the London Borough of Peckham, journalist and regular contributor on Sky News. Prior to this, during the by-election in Eastleigh earlier this year caused by the resignation and of disgraced former Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, who was later imprisoned, Labour members there decided to select a ‘celebrity’ candidate, in writer John O’Farrell, over many local candidates.
Evidence suggests that other Parties are also bolstering their elected ranks with members from their youth wings, a notable case being UKIP County Councillor Christopher Wood (Fareham Crofton), the youngest County Councillor in Hampshire.
”Whilst quite a few young people are interested in politics and want to try to improve their local areas, they are not taken as seriously by the other parties and their established branches, so are not selected as candidate” said Cllr Wood.
”Another problem facing young people is the lack of incentive to be a councillor, a person between 18-25 is probably looking to leave home and start a family, the allowances from the council do not provide a salary which enables this, hence why I also have a full time job” he continued.
This may be a problem for those less well off who want to stand in further elections as UKIP campaign to reduce council ‘waste’, including members’ allowances.
Labour however, appear to be unwilling even to choose candidates from members of ‘Young Labour’. A Young Labour Party member speaking to Andover Town put the issue down to ”Machine politics, the irresponsible behaviour on the part of some trade unions and an antediluvian attitude of certain CLP’s” which he said ”discourages young people [from standing]”.
Cllr Wood suggests that parties do not put their young members to good use. Saying ”Other parties all too often use young people as leaflet fodder, however because UKIP has fewer members it is actually easier for young people to be heard, to stand for election for our party and to influence policy. Other parties tend to be subject to major lobbying by other groups, UKIP is in the unique position where we have widespread national support, without the national representation in the House of Commons, so such lobbying groups do not target us as strongly”.
With incumbent Conservative MP and Government Chief Whip Sir George Young unlikely to face a serious threat in North West Hampshire in 2015, local voters here are unlikely to be concerned with the locality of candidates from other Parties, however with Labour having to regain at least some Parliamentary seats in the southern counties to have a chance at regaining power this could prove a sticking point for voters in other areas who are hoping for a local candidate to represent them in Westminster.