Labour’s bid to win back ‘Red Wall’ seat of Bolton North East plunges into chaos

Sir Keir Starmer was dragged into a fresh row with Labour’s grassroots today as his party’s bid to win back a key ‘Red Wall’ seat was plunged into chaos.

An entire committee who had been slated to choose Labour’s general election candidate in Bolton North East all quit with a furious attack on the party’s leadership.

It has seen Sir Keir accused of only wanting ‘nodding dogs’ and representatives of a London ‘clique’ to be Labour candidates.

Bolton North East was snatched from Labour by the Conservatives at the 2019 election, with Tory MP Mark Logan holding the constituency by just 378 votes. 

It means it is a key target for Labour as they try to win back those seats they lost to the Tories in 2019 across their traditional ‘Red Wall’ strongholds.

The row over the selection of Labour’s candidate in Bolton North East centres on the exclusion of Leigh Drennan, the chair of Labour North West, from the party’s longlist for the seat.

He had been backed by major trade unions Unite, UNISON, GMB, and the CWU, and was previously a member of a top body of Momentum, the left-wing pressure group.

Current Labour MPs this week criticised Mr Drennan’s exclusion from the longlist.

Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley described it as a ‘clear misjudgement’ and said it ‘raises questions about the integrity of the selection process’.

Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols said it was ‘one of the most blatantly factional examples of abuse of the process I’ve seen in the 15 years or so I’ve been a party member’.

The bitter row has now intensified with the mass resignation of Labour’s Bolton North East selection committee, who hit out at alleged meddling by the party’s central office.

In a joint statement, they said: ‘Yet again it appears the Labour Party is seeking to promote the views and attitudes of a clique in London, rather that local members in the North.

‘This goes against the attitude necessary to win back the Red Wall, which is so desperately needed to deliver a Labour government.

‘We hope Labour Party members and representatives from across the party now also voice their support for fair processes overseen by local members.’

A Momentum spokesman blasted ‘chilling and authoritarian’ moves to block ‘some of Labour’s leading activists and trade unionists’ from standing as general election candidates.

They added: ‘This purge has ramifications far beyond Labour’s internal democracy – instead of being a site of varied opinion and independent thinking, populated by people from all walks of life, the next Parliamentary Labour Party will be a home for the professional political class, nodding dogs loyal to Starmer above their communities.’

Mr Logan declined to comment on the row over Labour’s selection process, telling MailOnline: ‘It would be easy for me to do the Punch and Judy politics, but party politics is not what puts lunch on the table of Judy.

‘I’ll continue to push for my constituents in Westminster for as long as they empower me to do so.’

There have also been rows over Labour’s selection of candidates in Glasgow South West, Carlisle, Camberwell and Peckham, and Kensington, among others. 

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