Departing Halifax MP’s warning to Labour chiefs

Halifax MP Linda Riordan
Halifax MP Linda Riordan

A Labour MP who is standing down at the general election has warned the party it is in “very real danger” of losing the seat unless a candidate is selected soon, it has been revealed.

Linda Riordan, who has represented Halifax for the past 10 years, said last month she was retiring on health grounds, stressing someone should be chosen as a “matter or urgency” given the slim 1,472 majority Labour is defending.

To put it bluntly I fear that unless we get a candidate soon, there is the very real danger of losing Halifax. - Halifax MP Linda Riordan

In a letter to Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary, Ms Riordan, said that since mid-February, progress in selecting a prospective candidate had been “extremely slow”, adding: “The only meeting of the members to have taken place has been an indicative, special all-members meeting to seek views on holding an open selection or an all women shortlist.

“As you will be aware a significant majority of local party members expressed their preference for an all women shortlist, something I wholeheartedly support.

“Yet despite the local party having indicated its desire to begin the process of selection, the party centrally have done nothing to enable members to begin the process of choosing their candidate.”

Ms Riordan said that with just 58 days to go to polling day, it was becoming “increasingly urgent” that a candidate was selected, adding that the Conservatives had been campaigning “vigorously” since the beginning of the year.

“In the last year the local Conservative Association has received significant donations from various Tory dining clubs and it is clear that they are using this income to run a very strong ground campaign.

“To put it bluntly I fear that unless we get a candidate soon, there is the very real danger of losing Halifax.

“Having been a member of the local party in Halifax for over 25 years and the MP for a decade, I have to report that I have never sensed such a level of frustration from local party members towards Labour Party HQ.

“Chief among the complaints are that the party is dragging its feet over the selection. Others have asked if those down south understand how marginal this seat is and that we need a candidate urgently. There are even those who suspect that the Labour Party nationally intend to impose a candidate in late-March once Parliament has closed.

“Now while there may be no substance to these allegations the fact remains that our members are the spine of the party - they canvass, they deliver leaflets and they sit outside polling stations. Without them we simply don’t have a functioning party in Halifax.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Labour has a well-established process for selections. The NEC will decide on the shortlist for Halifax and will assess the suitability of the candidates, the wishes of the local party and the best interests of the Labour Party.”