The London Assembly is often mocked for lacking clout, but its scrutiny of the Mayor and his policies is important and its best work often under-appreciated. Doing the job well requires stamina, attention to detail and a strong grasp of what London Mayors can and cannot do. The are 25 Assembly Members (AMs) altogether, and the 14 representing the GLA constituencies also have responsibilities to residents.
Labour Party members selecting candidates for next year’s Assembly elections should keep the qualities a good AM needs in mind. Crowd-pleasing rhetoric is easy. Getting your head round the complexities of affordable housing delivery figures and knowing how to make the most of 30 precious minutes with the Transport for London commissioner are much more demanding propositions.
The six out of Labour’s nine sitting constituency Labour AMs who want to defend their seats have all been re-selected and will be expected to win again, though Tom Copley, the only one out of Labour’s three current London-wide list AMs – elected through a form of proportional representation – who wants to stand again must hope party members put him at or near the top of the list if he is to serve a further four years at City Hall. Copley has been an impressive AM and On London will carry an interview with him in the coming days. But what of others hoping to run for an Assembly seat next year?
The initial large field of contenders will be narrowed down, with shortlists for each of the available constituency seats and the London-wide list section drawn up. To be considered for shortlisting for a constituency seat requires formal nomination by three constituency Labour parties within the GLA constituency area or by five affiliated organisations (or both). To be considered for shortlisting for the London-wide seats list requires formal nomination by five CLPs from anywhere in the capital or five affiliated organisations.
Shortlisting will follow all the CLPs and affiliates making nominations – a process that still has some way to go – and, after that, interviews of those who reach the relevant thresholds. Constituency candidates will then by selected on a one member, one vote (OMOV) basis by members of the CLPs that fall into those constituencies, while London-wide list candidates will be selected and placed in order preference, also by OMOV. Only the top two names on the London-wide list can feel very confident of getting elected to the Assembly next May. The London region say that some of the final details of selection voting have yet to be finalised and that the candidates will probably not be settled on until November.
So who’s been in the starting line-ups? Labour List reported last month that in Barnet & Camden constituency, where the venerable Andrew Dismore is standing down, the likely frontrunners are Faduma Hassan, a Brent backbench councillor and Momentum activist, and Miriam Mirwitch, national chair of Young Labour and a member of the Jewish Labour Movement and the GMB. Dismore is backing Anne Clarke, who won a seat on Barnet Council against the tide last year. The Assembly contest could be tight, given the damage done to Labour by its antisemitism controversies and the importance of attracting Jewish voters in Barnet. Clarke’s win last year suggests she has the know-how to run an effective campaign.
In Brent & Harrow, to be vacated by Navin Shah, avid Momentumite Aghileh Djafari-Marbini has so far secured nominations from the Hampstead & Kilburn and Brent Central constituency parties and two others, and the backing of shadow chancellor John McDonnell. She says “the Corbyn leadership has allowed us to dream again”. Djafari-Marbini stood unsuccessfully for Harrow Council last year. Murad Qureshi, a former list AM who succeeded Corbyn as chair of the Stop The War Coalition, is also seeking selection for this seat.
Havering & Redbridge, which Labour narrowly failed to win in 2016, is the target of, among others, Redbridge Council cabinet member and former leader Bob Littlewood; Newham Council cabinet member James Beckles; former Met superintendent Leroy Logan MBE, once a client and supporter of Sadiq Khan, though more recently a critic; Redbridge councillor Beverley Brewer; and Waltham Forest cabinet member Liaquat Ali.
Islington Council executive member Claudia Webbe, who is also a member of Labour’s national executive committee, is spoken of as the favourite to succeed Jennette Arnold as AM for the North East constituency, which comprises the rock solid Labour boroughs of Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forest. Webbe is passionately Corbynite – she’d jump under a bus for him, according to one fellow London Labour politician. Hackney councillor Sem Moema has the support of MPs Meg Hillier and Stella Creasy and of Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, for whom she is a housing adviser. Islington campaigner Valerie Bossman is one of the others in the North East field.
Initially, so was Mandy Richards, Labour’s 2016 candidate for West Central, the GLA constituency covering Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham. Richards was runner up there to Conservative AM Tony Devenish and went on to be selected as parliamentary candidate for Worcester, only to be blocked by the NEC after, among other things, appearing to some to suggest that the Manchester Arena bombing might not have actually taken place. Richards has denied this was her intention. Even so, the London region’s decision to let her seek selection as an Assembly candidate for 2020 caused jaws to drop. According to Labour List, the NEC has stepped in to prevent her proceeding to the next stage.
West Central itself has always been Tory-held, but Labour has been closing the gap. Westminster councillor Rita Begum, Sophie Charman-Blower and Hammersmith & Fulham councillor Fiona Smith are vying to be the candidate next year.
There are three runners too for Croydon & Sutton, where Labour hasn’t been all that far behind the Tories’ Steve O’Connell, who is standing down: meet Southwark councillor Dora Dixon-Fyle, Croydon councillor Patsy Cummings and campaigner Rowenna Davies.
Labour will, of course, also be contesting the South West and Bexley & Bromley GLA seats, though the former is likely to be a mainly Tory-Liberal Democrat contest, while the latter is Tory through and through.
Several of those seeking constituency seats are also seeking to be London-wide list candidates, including Qureshi, Beckles, Logan, Brewer, Ali, Begum, Smith, Charman-Blower, Bossman and Moema (who has secured the nomination of Finchley & Golders Green CLP in this section of the selection, along with Copley). There’s quite a crowd of London-wide list only runners too – too large a crowd to sift through in detail here, but Labour List has all the names. No doubt there will be more on all this to come.
This article originally mistakenly described Valerie Bossman as a councillor. That has now been corrected.
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