Senior Labour figures battle over Welsh seat

May's by-election will be viewed as a big test of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership


Labour runs the risk of losing a safe seat in Wales if the party leadership seeks to impose a candidate ahead of a by-election in May, according to a former shadow minister.

The seat in question is Ogmore. Following the decision by the sitting Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies to contest a seat for the Welsh Assembly in May, efforts are now being made to find a replacement.

According to the Telegraph, Jeremy Corbyn’s office wants to see the leader’s political secretary Katy Clark as the candidate in the by-election when Mr Irranca-Davies formally steps down.

Last year Clark, also a director of the campaign group Momentum, lost her Scottish seat of Ayrshire North and Arran following the SNP avalanche that engulfed Labour last May.

Speaking to the Telegraph, one former Labour minister said:

“People in Wales will be furious if they try to stitch it up for Katy or someone like Chris Williamson.

“All the Welsh MPs are very worried about this because you need a strong local candidate with real ties to the area for a by-election nowadays.”

A former Labour shadow minister went further, arguing:

“The great fear we have is that if leadership tries to impose a candidate then it will make the same mistake that we have seen in the past, where the imposition of a candidate against the wishes of the local party has led to us losing a seat.

“This is a very serious issue and a test for the leadership indeed in terms of its views of democracy and of course its strategic approach.”

Losing Ogmore would be an astonishing result, given that Labour secured a majority of over 13,000 votes there last year.

Under the Labour party’s rules the National Executive Committee, increasingly compiled of Corbyn supporters, will select a shortlist of potential candidates, from which local members elect their candidate.

The paper quotes what it describes as a ‘senior Welsh Labour figure’ as having said:

“I would be very surprised if the Ogmore constituency wanted somebody hoisted on them by the leader’s office and certainly not somebody from outside of Wales.

“I know there are some very strong candidates potentially putting themselves forward from across Wales.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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