Longlisting for Stoke Central to decide who will replace sitting MP Mark Fisher as Labour's candidate is expected to take place today.
Word has is that Tom Watson MP (who mysteriously sits on the Labour Party's ruling (sic) national executive committee as a government representative even though he's been out of government since July last year) has been stopped from chairing any more of the three-member selection panels.
The baton to ensure a particular outcome may have been passed to Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, it is alleged, who, since husband Jack Dromey won the All Male Shortlisted ballot in Birmingham, Erdington, is free once again to take part in parliamentary seat engineering, as I call it. Her name is being linked to a private understanding with m'lord Mandelson in a bid to secure seats for favoured candidates.
I can't attest to the voracity of these suggestions. But knowing those who are making them, I consider they must be aired in the hope that sanity will prevail. An open and transparent process could have avoided these suspicions, which are extremely damaging to member morale, and to Labour's electoral prospects.
A shortlist for Stoke Central that offers local members genuine choice in the ballot that will take place shortly will be a real test for the Labour leadership. Is it focussed on winning the election or more concerned about positioning ahead of a leadership contest that would follow defeat?
UPDATE: 0903 Friday 26 March - Harriet Harman is not on the three-member panel that will be interviewing and shortlisting candidates on Monday afternoon, which I understand will comprise Keith Vaz MP, Cllr Ann Lucas and USDAW's Paddy Lillis.
Choice for local members has already been compromised by the omission of Mark Seddon, former editor of Tribune and NEC member from the long-list. Given their full right's would Seddon have got some nominations from members? But in the faux democracy deeply engrained in the upper echelons of the Labour Party, those members' rights now count for little, if anything at all. Shameful.