With the Labour Party's electoral prospects being rocked with industrial action disrupting planes and possibly trains, the last thing I had expected to hear about this morning was more parliamentary seat engineering.
The latest concerns Stoke Central. According to the FT Westminster blog yesterday Tristram Hunt, described as m'Lord Mandleson's 'favourite' is to be parachuted into Mark Fisher's seat of Stoke Central when he steps down at the General Election.
How might that be achieved? Well, it's called the Ashfield gambit - applications are invited - longlisting/interviewing/shortlisting produces three candidates for a members' ballot, with said Tristram the only serious candidate, just like Gloria De Piero is intended to be in the Ashfield contest. (We will know later today whether that gambit worked for her and her backers when the result is declared, if it hasn't been already.)
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Tristram, so I have no axe to grind other than that of members' rights, which have been abused in a very damaging way by my so-called comrades on the National Executive Committee's Special Selection Panel (SSP) (Ann Black excepted). The deadline for Stoke Central applications is Tuesday 23 March. Longlisting is completely opaque, then three members of the SSP will meet on a date to be announced to interview the chosen few and decide a shortlist.
If Stoke Central members get an opportunity to vote, I am not holding my breath even on that matter, then they might be interested in the performance of shortlisted candidates in other selections. In Tristram's case he was eliminated in the second round of the count in Leyton and Wanstead, despite having (it was alleged) pre-prepared election material. (The full results are available elsewhere on this blog.)
My idle hope is that local members will have a say in who gets longlisted/shortlisted. But that would be difficult as the NEC's Organisation Committee has banned Stoke Central CLP from meeting until after the General Election. Bit daft if you ask me when what the Labour Party needs desparately in Stoke is maximum membership involvement, especially for a new candidate to see off the BNP's deputy leader.