Patrick Wintour’s article in the Guardian this morning has gone down very badly in Labour circles. The notion that Labour MPs could be banned from triggering by-elections in order stand as Mayors or Police Commissioners due to dire finances has been met with outrage throughout the party. Though Labour are indeed broke, insiders see this for what it is – a direct attack on Liam Byrne and his bid to run for Mayor of Birmingham. Central command and control is back.
One former SpAd said: “Such a naked stitch-up. It would be simpler if Tom Watson just said that no-one whose name wasn’t Siôn Simon was allowed to run. Mind you, Siôn would still find a way to cock it up.”
Another senior party staffer points out: “why is the by-election thing only a problem when it’s Liam? They were happy to do it when it suited them, ie to get Lucy Powell in. Precedent was set by Sir Peter Soulsby in Leicester South, Watson was desperate to get his best mate Jonathan Ashworth in. It’s only when they lose control of the fixing they want to change the rules. Harriet biggest hypocrite of all. She used by-elections to get her cronies in – Ashworth was her former political secretary. And Seema Malhotra in Feltham and Heston was her former adviser.””
The article has fingerprints all over it, especially as it names Harman as the driving force behind the idea. Her husband Jack Dromey is likely to chair Siôn Simon’s Birmingham campaign. Guido understands that a deal was struck when Dromey replaced Simon in the All Female Selection for Birmingham Erdington in 2010. One source called this an “old school Labour/union stitch up of the worst kind.”