From Jonathan Timbers
I am growing increasingly annoyed by the coverage of the selection process for the Labour candidate for Calder Valley on this website which is inaccurate and fuelling much idle chit chat. I attended the Labour PPC selction meeting on 9 April 2009 right up to the point that the last votes were counted. As far as I am aware there is no suggestion that there were any voting irregularities with the postal vote or with Steph Booth's selection as candidate.
From Kevin Duffy
The hypocrisy of democracy or lack of it. A prospective candidate not getting out of her car, but leaving it to Mr Blairs faher in law to celeb his way up and down the valley scrabbling for postal votes! It stinks. It will be interesting to see what the Labour Party luvvies think once Grub Street find out the truth about the Blair/Booth love in.
From Ernest Jones
Jonathan seems to be annoyed that Hebweb has accurately reported coverage of Labour’s selection process in the press and in the blogosphere. I think we are all aware that blogs are opinionated and that not everything in the Daily Mail is true. There’s no need to shoot the messenger.
I agree with Jonathan that “there are more important issues … than personalities”. Like him, I attended the selection meeting which focused on issues and on what the candidates stood for, and the only voting irregularity concerned the number of members voting on the night: a trivial case of human error.
Those present had the opportunity to assess the two candidates, based upon their speeches and responses to questions. It was no surprise that Susan Press won the majority of the votes cast that evening, not because the room was packed with her supporters, but because people judged that the content and delivery of her speech, and her answers to questions were more impressive than her opponent’s.
The scandal of postal voting to which Susan refers in her blog does not concern ballot box tampering, or supporters of a candidate interfering with postal votes. It is that, whereas Labour Party rules are explicit about the grounds for granting a postal vote, in practice they are granted to pretty much anyone who applies. Postal voting was introduced so as not to exclude people unable to attend the selection meeting, for example through illness or holiday, but should not be granted to those who simply choose not to attend.
If you have a postal vote, and do not meet the candidates before you cast it, it's very difficult to make a considered choice between them. There was only one opportunity organised by the party to meet both candidates, on a Tuesday evening in Brighouse. About twenty people attended.
90 postal votes were cast. For every 2 votes cast at the meeting itself, there were 3 postal votes. The party could have arranged meetings with the candidates across the constituency, one in each town. It could have ensured that applications for postal votes were for legitimate reasons. In neither case did it do so.
Nobody knows whether the end result would have been different if the selection process had been organised differently. But it would have been a better informed decision.
From Tom Standfield
The allegations that Steph Booth used dirty tricks come just weeks after Damian McBride resigned following revelations about emails containing lurid allegations against opponents. Revelations which upset members of all parties and which helped influence Alice Mahon to quit the Labour Party.
I don't see how Steph Booth can possibly remain as the prospective Labour candidate for Calder Valley after this. The allegation against her is of a far more serious offence than the lovers' tiff business that cost Janet Oosthuysen her selection.
The Calder Valley seat will be a hard one for Labour to ever win in the current climate and allegations of dirty tricks would haunt both Step Booth and the local Labour Party throughout the campaign. She needs to do the honourable thing and step down.
The selection process should be run a third time - with clear advice about how postal votes may or may not be used.
Given we now all know that Janet Oosthuysen was a victim in this business, she should be allowed (and encouraged) to run again.
From Janice S
I wonder why the story hasn't appeared in the Courier. It's 2 days since it appeared in the Yorkshire Post, and the Courier could possibly establish whether or not "Anjustarks" registered with a Cool UK email address (unless this breaks any privacy/data protection rules).
If it's true, I hope Steph has the grace to step down.
From Graham Barker
Couldn’t agree more with Tom.
Dirty tricks allegations aside, Stephanie Booth’s blog will on its own cause plenty of people to doubt her fitness for purpose as a prospective MP. Big chunks of it are in French and most of the rest is geeky drivel about her phone, computer, Twitter et al. No local issues, or much at all outside herself. Hardly evidence of a shrewd political mind keen to grapple with the economic and social problems of the Upper Valley.
On a different tack, the Yorkshire Post article on the dirty tricks allegations appeared on 4 May. Two days later, nothing in the Halifax Courier, or at least the online edition. Wonder why? Laziness? Incompetence? Solicitors’ letters?
From Danny Thompson
Graham Barker has got his Stephanie Booths muddled.
The website he references belongs to a respected Swiss-based writer/consultant who has nothing whatsoever to do with the Calder Valley (as far as I know), and whose work is certainly not drivel to many of those interested in social media.
The other Stephanie Booth appears to have a blog here:
From Graham Barker
Oops! Yes, my mistake - apologies all round. Not sure it changes much though - and still nothing in the Courier about the dirty tricks allegations that the YP seemed happy to print.
From Paul D
I think we should now forget all this talk of dirty tricks, the selection process and just focus on the future. Steph Booth should be accepted as the legitimate candidate. Janet is a nice person, she’s well respected locally and would have kept it a tight race. Labour will now come third, possibly fourth and let’s be honest - they really need to lose.
From Cllr Susan Press
The only comment I wish to make under the circumstances is that I am appalled at the allegations concerning Steph Booth and I hope the NEC of the Labour Party investigates. I have put my complaint in writing.
From James B
Are you appalled by the allegations, or appalled by their likelihood of being true?
They are after all only unfounded allegations, and whether Steph Booth was involved in 'dirty tricks' or not is merely speculation or rumour at this moment in time.
Could the opponents of Steph Booth (supporters of Janet Oosthuysen?) be just as worthy of dirty tricks allegations by highlighting and making a big deal of the dirty tricks allegations in the local media?
From Jonathan Timbers
I have sympathy for Paul D's post when it says that we should accept Steph Booth being the Labour candidate. If you read the Yorkshire Post article, there is nothing of huge significance alleged in factual terms (as opposed to some of the language used). However, I disagree strongly that Labour deserve to lose.
From Ron Taylor
If the Labour Party doesn't de-select Steph Booth then I think it is high time that Janet Oosthuysen reconsider her position and stand as an independent Labour/Socialist candidate at the the next general election. I would certainly vote for her. I will certainly not vote for Mrs Booth.
From Tim N
I'm with Ron - I will not be voting for Mrs Booth, but would vote for Janet if she stood.
From Maggie Stewart
Like the two previous contributors I will not be voting for Steph Booth at the next general election. She should of course be de-selected before then. I would vote for Janet though.
From Cllr Susan Press
I think it might be wise to point out that Janet remains a member of the Labour Party and that Labour Party members would not be able to campaign for Independent Socialist candidates, whoever they were. The result would be immediate expulsion.
Janet has had my support throughout this process and we will continue as Labour members of the Town Council.
Speaking purely personally, those of us who have issues to resolve still see our best path as pursuing them with the NEC.And, like others, I sincerely hope that Janet would be able to stand as a candidate at some point in the future.I also hope she will consider standing again in Calder as a candidate for Calderdale MBC. I have no doubt she would stand an excellent chance of defeating the Liberal Democrats given she almost won in 2008.
From Ron Taylor
Sorry, Susan. I should have said that I would probably have voted for you had you been selected instead of Mrs Booth. I use the word 'probably' not because I have any doubts about your integrity, nor your committment to socialism, but because I have very serious doubts about the Labour Party and its ability to address the aspirations of ordinary people. It has lost its soul or rather has sold its soul.
I have reached the conclusion that principled people of the left should abandon the Labour Party to its fate and the let careerists and expense-fiddlers face the electorate under its now tattered banner.The socialists still in there are, in my view, wasting their time and energy.
I made the suggestion regarding Janet knowing that if she stood as independent socialist she would have to resign from the Party. But if it meant having a choice between a good socialist and the likes of Mrs Booth, then I am sure many in the area would choose the former.
A great disappointment for me since 1997 has been the fact that Labour has failed to introduce proportional representation. Under PR, for all its faults, the left would be able to stand on its own terms (outside the Labour Party, of course) and socialism may get a real public airing.
From Janice S
Having read the allegations, which I believe, I won't be voting for Steph either. I've written to the NEC about this (are ordinary LP members "allowed" to do this? - well, I did anyway).
I had thought of leaving the Party because I don't agree with many Government policies, because I felt disenfranchised by the NEC's decision not to endorse Janet O, and because I believe there were irregularities with the recent postal vote, but I think there are still enough socialists left to make a difference. If the Tories win the next election, I hope the Party will remember what it should stand for. A few years of David Cameron and George Osborne should win the Labour voters back.
From Ernest Jones
A columnist writing in the Huddersfield Examiner compared the Labour selection process in Calder Valley with “two bald men fighting over a comb”. Recent national opinion polls show the Tories with a 20 point lead over Labour. The Tories would take Calder Valley on a swing from Labour of 1.4%, and with the local party paralysed since last summer because of selection problems, the prospect of Labour retaining the seat is bleak.
Like Ron I hoped that Labour would introduce proportional representation after the 1997 election, but they didn’t. Until the electoral system is changed, if Labour loses the Tories win, both locally and nationally. For all the ills of the Labour government – war, Trident, civil liberties (erosion of, various), PFI, being intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, Charles Clarke – there has been good as well: the minimum wage, investment in public services, tax credits, civil partnerships, peace in Northern Ireland…
The last 12 years may not have been great, but they were better than the previous 18. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Even though Labour has clung to many of the tenets of Thatcherism, let’s not have a return to the real thing, rebranded as Cameron’s compassionate conservatism. So like Susan Press, Janet Oosthuysen and many other members of the local Labour Party, I pay my subs and do what little I can to promote socialist policies within the party, to thwart the forces of darkness, and hopefully to work for the election of a Labour MP.
Turning back to the subject of this thread, Jonathan Timbers rightly identifies the need for the local party to put their constituency first, but is misguided in believing that we should ignore irregularities in the selection process and allegations in the press concerning Steph Booth. Jonathan may judge that there was “nothing of huge significance” in the Yorkshire Post articles, but if Steph coerced a junior colleague to blog anonymously against Janet, the then PPC, or has unreasonably withheld payment to a local builder, it is pretty serious. In both cases, however, we have only read one side of the story.
These issues are not about what Jonathan describes as “internal grudges”. If the selection process was flawed, then we need an explanation, and if necessary a rerun. The YP articles were not concocted by disgruntled Labour Party activists. Like Janice S I have written to the National Executive to ask for an investigation into the allegations. They are in the public domain, and I am sure that Steph would wish to be exonerated, rather than have them swept under the carpet.
From Cllr Susan Press
I would just like to echo what Ernest Jones has said - and also to add I too have written to the NEC. I am still awaiting a reply.
The NEC meets on Tuesday May 19 in London and I will be meeting the constituency representatives, who include NEC Vice-Chair Ann Black, afterwards.
Labour Party members who share our concerns can rest assured I will be raising them. As Ern rightly says, these issues cannot be ignored.
From Joan Heath
Ernest is absolutely right. We must have transparency here.
Yes, Jonathan, the prospect of a Tory party at the helm during another recession is anathema.
Last time millions on the ‘dole’ suited the Tory economic strategy (which involved keeping wages down) perfectly. The same administration was reckless as to the misery inflicted. I distinctly recall (while emptying hundreds of job-rejection letters onto the dole office counter) one Tory MP telling us we’d ‘never had it so good’. It’s still galling.
However, we will not earn the respect of our local community if we do not stand up to sleaze and subversion. Janet O was forced out by the lies and slurs of a small cadre of loony-right subversives within our party. The NEC has confirmed that the decision against endorsement was not simply down to a ‘scratched car’, but to bad press. And we all know that there was no affair with a prominent Tory. Instead of supporting Janet over this defamation the ‘powers-that-be’ failed to endorse her. Also galling.
During the nineteen eighties I made a promise to myself that I would always work to keep the Tories out. I’m now faced with a dilemma. I would not be able to support a Labour PPC who had coerced a junior colleague to blog anonymously against Janet (our then PPC). Ernest is also right that there should be an investigation into those allegations, and that Mrs B. should wish to be exonerated. We cannot keep sweeping this rubbish under the carpet.
From Margaret Boyle
On 22nd April I made a formal complaint to the Labour Party about Ms Booth's selection requesting an investigation into the allegations made by Cool UK. I finally received this reply on 13th May, but only after a very strongly worded letter to the Party's General Secretary about the lack of accountability the Party feels to its members.
"Further to your letter regarding the suitability of Stephanie Booth as a Labour Parliamentary Candidate, I reply as follows.
On 21st April a National Executive Committee (NEC) panel interviewed Ms Booth. Before the panel were letters regarding Ms Booth's previous employment with Cool UK and Glossopdale Community College plus some further points. Ms Booth was handed the letters shortly before the interview, and then questioned in detail on the content by the NEC panel. The NEC panel were satisfied with the response from Ms Booth, and requested that she put this in a full written statement for the NEC records.
I am stunned by the complacency of the Labour Party's response and also by the very different standards they applied to Janet Oosthuysen. It will not do for Jonathan to urge loyalty and rallying round to stand up against the Tories. There is a moral bankruptcy in the way the Labour Party is operating which disgusts me and you can see that too in the way they are so slow to deal with MPs fiddling their expenses. By a strange quirk of fate the Guardian Diary column on Friday 13th May quoted Steph Booth apparently supporting Douglas Hogg (Viscount Hailsham to his mates) in using public money to clear out his moat. "Steph Booth, Labour candidate, stepmum of Cherie, asks: Is it logical, or even reasonable, to infer that if his wife had remained at home rather than accompanying him to London she would, in fact, be donning wellies and overalls to clean out the moat? No Steph, it isn't, for Baroness Hogg is herself a high flyer. But they could muddy themselves at the weekend." So this is the kind of candidate the Labour Party expects any activists left to campaign for, under what slogan? Equality for Sleazebags perhaps? You really couldn't make this up.
From Ron Taylor
Ern is right; the Labour government has done some good things. Unfortunately, not enough and they are now dwarfed by the wreckage we see around us. In 1997 New Labour was swept into office on a huge wave of goodwill allied to a universal revulsion for the sleaze which characterised the Tories.
The goodwill, and the opportunity for change afforded by a massive majority, was squandered long ago and we have ended up with a government tainted with the kind of sleaze we thought had disappeared with Thatcher and Major.
Not only that, of course, but the promise of an 'ethical foreign policy' (remember that one?) was transformed along the way into an illegal, unjustifiable and deeply unpopular war in Iraq and a cabinet stuffed with war criminals.
The events surrounding the selection process in the Calder Valley are symptomatic of a party that has lost touch with not only its supporters but even its own membership.
The behaviour of many Labour MPs, now exposed through the expenses scandal, is loathsome and it is hard to see how the party's reputation can ever be restored. (By the way how can anyone forget that have finally paid off their mortgage?)
The decision by the NEC to endorse Steph Booth following its disgraceful treatment of Janet Oosthuysen is the final straw.
I have voted Labour every time there has been an election. But the last time I voted Labour was just that - the last time.
From Matt Baker
There is a lot of talk on this forum about allegations, rumours and spurious links to things which have nothing to do with Calder Valley CLP. Nowhere in the midst of all this blurred anger and bloodletting is any kind of evidence whatsoever that Steph Booth has done anything wrong.
(3 sentences removed by the moderator for legal reasons)
I am very disappointed but not entirely surprised at Susan Press’ comments on this forum. To say she is appalled by some allegations is a bit like saying she doesn’t like malicious gossip. This is a classic reverse smear, Susan, and I note that you haven’t answered James B’s question. How can you be appalled by allegations unless you believe they are true? I would expect a more reasonable response from a fellow Labour member – that is unless you were trying to get as much mileage as possible out of this smear to damage Steph.
Like other Labour members I’m struggling to square your gritted teeth remarks to the local press:
“I will be working as hard as I can to ensure that Steph is returned as the next Labour MP for Calder Valley."
With your most recent comment on this board, which admits that “speaking purely personally” you “have issues to resolve” about her selection.
If you have issues to resolve regarding Steph’s selection then, for the sake of the Labour Party, this should be done privately. All this malicious gossip and idle speculation is deeply unedifying and is playing in to the hands of the Tories.
From Kevin Duffy
It is a good job Tony Blair has his own faith foundation, because the only way his mother in law has any chance of winning the Calder Valley seat is if she receives divine intervention.
From Cllr Susan Press
I think if Matt had any notion of the truth behind the spiteful vendetta against Janet Oosthuysen then he might understand why many members of Calder Valley CLP are appalled at the NEC's refusal to investigate the recent allegations in the Yorkshire Post as well as others. The allegations by Gareth Binding came to light after the selection. Whether they were true or not should have been the subject of a proper process. Calder Branch unanimously passed a resolution calling on the NEC to do this. If anyone has handed this seat to the Tories it is the Organisational Sub Committee, who firstly listened to the malicious lies put forward in the Mail On Sunday regarding Janet and then refused to listen to the concerns of Labour Party members regarding the re-run.
One can only hope the NEC will at least today decide to call for de-selection of the MPs who have transgressed the rules on expenses. I am meeting NEC members tonight in London and will be raising all our concerns with them.
From Joan Heath
It is evident from the majority of postings here and elsewhere that there is a deep affection for Janet O. within and without our party.
This is not only because of the disgraceful way in which Janet has been treated since she was democratically elected as PPC. But also because she earned respect for her activism from the grassroots up.
This at least, is exactly as it should be.
From Mick Piggott
I share Ron Taylor's dismay and disgust at the policies of the government and the antics of 'New Labour' in trying to ensure a compliant right-wing candidate for Labour in the Calder Valley.
As it is many years since I was a member of the Labour Party, let alone active in party politics, my opinion probably matters little to Labour. However, socialists who are still deluded enough to believe that New Labour can still be worth electing should bear in mind that it's the votes of people like me who put Labour into power and has kept it in government for these past twelve years.
Here's some history: in 1905 the Labour Representation Committee set up the Labour Party to fight for government. My maternal great-grandfather was a founding member. Every single one of our family in every generation has voted Labour ever since. Next time, not a single living member of our family will vote Labour, such is the level of our disgust. Don't blame us for the landslide Tory government that will win the next general election. We can not bring ourselves, in all conscience, to vote for what is, in all important respects (war, privatisation, attacks on civil liberties, the planned attacks on public services to finance the greed and incompetence of the bankers etc etc) a damned Tory government, calling itself 'New Labour'.
It is not us who are handing the country back to the Tories on a plate. It is entirely the fault of New Labour!
Yes, Ron Taylor, we do need a new socialist party, and I wish there was one to vote for. As there isn't, we are left with the appalling choices of the Greens, the Lib Dems, or spoiling the ballot paper. I am still wrestling with this dilemma. But New Labour - no way.
I am appalled at the Labour Party NEC for giving Steph Booth their full support without taking any steps to verify the truth.
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Everyone I know either in the general public or through 'friends' of Steph have told me they do not have any faith in Steph Booth and are not happy. Steph - it is not an article from the Yorkshire Post that has damaged your reputation.
I hope my post doesn't get moderated for "legal reasons". I've looked in vain to see evidence of our new Labour candidate rallying the Labour troops in the runup to the Euro elections and speaking out against the BNP as so many other local Labour people have done. The last thing that the marginal constituency of Calder Valley needs as we approach a General Election is a weak candidate who doesn't command the support of local activists. As someone who could still be persuaded to vote Labour, could I ask the local party to get their act together and find a candidate who can inspire and fight for the important issues - eg, stopping global warming and nuclear weapons, stopping the growth of poverty and inequality, promoting hope not hate, and helping to sustain a prosperous Calder Valley.
From Kate Sweeny
I'd just like to remind people that there already is a party opposed to nuclear power (and Trident and ID cards) and fully committed to a green economy. Yep - the Green Party!
From Graham Barker
Here’s a simple idea for reforming candidate selection that’s relevant to all political parties. It can’t be a new idea but I haven’t heard it aired by anybody recently. Change the law so that no one can stand for parliament unless they currently live and preferably work in that constituency and have done so for at least five years. The longer, the better. Ideally they will also have passed a test of their knowledge of the constituency, so that the electorate have some objective measure of their fitness for purpose.
That will reduce the number of brown-nosing, carpet-bagging career politicians committed more to their own advancement than to the interests of their constituents; it will reduce the influence exerted over the selection process by London-based party HQs; and with luck it will bring into parliament a greater range of skills and life experience than just law, management consultancy and trade unions.
And while in London, make all MPs live together in a caravan park. Stick in a few trees and a bit of grass - who could want more?
Can’t see anything seriously wrong with all that, which I suppose makes it almost inevitable that it’ll never happen. It disturbs me that both the media and politicians themselves talk so glibly of ‘the political class’, without appearing to see any irony in the term. There shouldn’t be a ‘political class’ - there should just be ordinary people who represent you and me.
See Hebweb News: Labour Selection Saga