Monday 15 March 2010

Beware the ides of March...

Now feels like a good time to remind Labour party chiefs and contenders in the approaching contest in Ashfield for the party's candidacy of a little Nottinghamshire history.

Ashfield Labour members have been kicking up a fuss over what they claim are attempts to shoe-horn a candidate – TV presenter Gloria De Piero – into their constituency.

Party members claim, for example, that De Piero has been put on a shortlist of nobodies in order to ease her passage into the seat’s candidacy.

Threats have been made that the local party won’t put up with it, though they don’t seem to have been particularly heeded.

But Ashfield has form when it comes to rebelling against Labour candidates.

In 1977 there was a by-election in the seat – which at that time supported a Labour majority of almost 23,000.

Yet the Labour candidate lost the seat by 264 votes on polling day. Some Labour bods I spoke to claimed it was because the party misjudged how safe the seat was and diverted campaign funds elsewhere.

But a key factor, I’m told by locals, was actually that many Labour voters deserted the party because they “hated” their own candidate – who was a particularly divisive Notts politician called Michael Cowan.

Cowan later defected to the Tory party.

After years of ‘taking one for the team’ by putting up with Geoff Hoon, it’s understandable that they’d want a proper say in choosing the next politician who would speak on their behalf.

Could we be in for another 1977?

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