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Dale’s Diary: Festive goodwill in short supply as Labour deselection battles loom

Dale’s Diary: Festive goodwill in short supply as Labour deselection battles loom

🕔18.Dec 2015

Labour’s tectonic plates are shifting in Birmingham and it’s hard to keep up with the flurry of selections and deselections since John Clancy became city council leader on December 1, writes Paul Dale.

The biggest casualty so far looks like being Anita Ward in Hodge Hill where an uneasy stand-off has occurred. The former Lord Mayor, who is believed not to have voted for Clancy to become leader, turned out to be the only candidate left standing for reselection to fight the 2016 council elections when two others on a shortlist pulled out at the last minute, but Hodge Hill Labour members refused to take a vote thereby leaving her out on a limb.

Some people have suggested the national party will be forced to step in and impose a candidate in Hodge Hill. It still remains possible though that the local party, where arch-Clancy supporter Cllr Majid Mahmood is a key figure, will manage to find a candidate to support who is not Anita Ward.

Meanwhile, there have been some interesting developments on the other side of the city.

Caroline Badley, a Labour councillor in Quinton since 2012, did not put herself forward for reselection.

In her place the local ward party chose one Kate Booth, a retired deputy headteacher who happens to be the partner of Sparkbrook Labour councillor Tony Kennedy, who happens to be a close political ally of Clancy, who happens to be another Quinton councillor.

Badley, again thought not to have favoured Clancy for the leadership, is very close to Edgbaston Labour MP Gisela Stuart and has helped organise her campaigns for years. Rumours have already begun to circulate suggesting that Mrs Stuart may stand down at the 2020 General Election after 23 years at Westminster to make way for Badley.

Ms Booth’s selection prompted a warm welcome on Facebook from uber-modern leader Clancy, who described her as a “great campaigner” and said how much he was looking forward to working with her.

Booth, 57, was Labour’s candidate in South Yardley at last year’s council elections, where she lost out to the Liberal Democrats. In her application form for inclusion on Labour’s list of potential council candidates, Ms Booth describes herself as “radical but realistic” and says she “understands the difficulties facing us in the teeth of Conservative incompetence which will challenge us for many years ahead.”

Asked to provide information about her activities in the community, Ms Booth lists her role as an assistant chief street champion and says she helped establish a neighbourhood watch scheme.

“I have planned and led assertiveness courses for women”, she adds. That could come in useful on the city council, obviously.

Helpfully, one of the referees put forward by Booth turns out to be Jess Phillips, the MP for Yardley.

In Washwood Heath, meanwhile, there is much anticipation about a trigger ballot vote on December 22 where sitting Labour councillor Miriam Khan is attempting to win reselection for 2016. If more than two-thirds of members present vote for a ballot, she will face a formal reselection procedure with other candidates able to join the contest.

The names of two alleged Clancy supporters seeking safe Labour seats in 2016 keep being bandied about on social media. These are Birmingham businesswoman Amber Shaikh and Mohammed Hanif.

Hanif has already enjoyed a somewhat mercurial rise to stardom, having become chair of the Perry Barr branch even though he’s only been a Labour party member for just over two years. In his application form to join the list of council candidates, Hanif says he does a lot of community work and likes to help senior citizens with their council tax, housing benefits and other local issues.

This festive season of selections and deselections has naturally prompted claims that Clancy is behind a campaign of vengeance to get rid of councillors suspected of not voting for him to become council leader. Since he confidently expected to win the support of about 42 colleagues but ended up winning by only one vote, with two spoilt ballot papers, it would be a surprise if he did not attempt to shore up his position against a possible leadership challenge after the May 2016 council elections.

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