The Labour party is facing a frantic rush in its fight to retain the marginal Halifax seat with just weeks to go to the general election.
Its Parliamentary candidate will be selected tomorrow after a shortlist of five women was put forward following MP Linda Riordan’s announcement that she is to stand down due to ill health.
Halifax is seen as a key battleground seat for both Labour and the Conservatives who are hoping to gain enough seats to become a majority Government in May.
And with less than seven weeks to go, members of the Halifax constituency party will choose a candidate after the five take part in a hustings debate.
Each candidate will be given ten minutes to convince local party members that they are the right person to stand.
Earlier this week six candidates were interviewed by Labour’s National Executive Committee with five of them being put forward to the all-women shortlist - Holly Walker-Lynch, Jo Coles, Dot Foster, Susan Hinchcliffe and Naveeda Ikram.
Holly Walker-Lynch is a Labour activist from Halifax who works as a communications officer for Linda McAvan MEP; Jo Coles works as a political aide to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP in his Leeds constituency; Dot Foster represents Sowerby Bridge on Calderdale Council; Susan Hinchcliffe is a Bradford councillor with a background in business; and Naveeda Ikram is also a Bradford councillor.
Calderdale councillor Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) was the only candidate on the original longlist who was not put forward for the shortlist.
She said: “I’m very disappointed, but I’m confident that we’ll choose a good candidate who will be able to defeat Philip Allott on Saturday.
“There are two women from Halifax, two women from Bradford and one from Leeds - I’m really pleased that all the candidates on the shortlist are from Yorkshire.
“The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster, that’s for sure - I was both surprised and disappointed not be shortlisted.”
Councillor Foster said she was honoured to have made the shortlist and the protecting local health services was her top priority.
She said: “As a local candidate I feel that Linda was vital and served Halifax extremely well and I feel I’d be a worth successor.”
Ms Cole said she too was concerned about local health provision, she said: “I’ve got the skills and experience to win for local people - to protect local health services, to ensure Halifax gets a good deal from regional devolution to Yorkshire and to ensure children and young people get the opportunities they need to get on and do well.”
Councillor Ikram said she felt humbled to have been shortlisted adding that the issues she deals with on a daily basis in Bradford are similar to issues families are dealing with in Halifax.
She said: “Everything about Halifax is going to be a priority for me.”
Ms Walker-Lynch said her priorities are dealing with food poverty, fighting against health cuts and bring more investment into Halifax.
She said: It’s a great place, it’s my home-town - we need to see more redevelopment and investment in transport.”
Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, said he wasn’t prepared to comment on his preferred candidate.
He said: “I’m just genuinely interested now to see who is chosen as I don’t think there is an obvious ‘favourite’ nor anyone who is being pushed.
“It’s one of those rare selections where it really will be decided by the performance on the day.”
The selection process has not been without its issues - infighting in the Labour party and with trade unions has meant a delay in the selection process.
Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax, said: “It’s clear that Labour is racked with divisions over their selection of a Halifax Parliamentary candidate.
“First they wanted someone from Unite, then someone from the region, but have now seemingly rejected one of the best-known local candidates.
“If they can’t even get their act together on choosing someone to fight the seat, there is little hope for Halifax if Labour wins the general election.”
The husting will take place tomorrow at the Threeways Centre, Ovenden, Halifax, from 11am.