I’ve now heard that another Blairite figure, the historian Tristram Hunt, could soon be parachuted into Stoke Central in a sop to Mandelson. The business secretary was reportedly disappointed when Hunt lost out to John Cryer, a Unite official, in the Leyton & Wanstead selection battle.My heart bleeds for Mandy. How dare uppity members determine who stands for Labour in their constituency. If this story is true I hope he and Tristram are braced for further disappointment. There is no way Stoke Central will select Tristram Hunt (pictured).
There's the local/parochial angle. When Jane Heggie, office worker for Rob Flello MP, is considered an 'outsider' because she's from *Stoke South* CLP, what hope has a metropolitan like Tristram got? Then there's the class thing. While sitting MP Mark Fisher is not exactly from proletarian stock, being an Old Etonian, Oxbridge graduate and owning an ancestral pile in Oxfordshire, he has always been on the soft left and was often seen out and about in the constituency.
Second, Labour - despite the increasingly crowded market for votes in Stoke Central (presently nine declarations of intent and counting) - is the front runner. Who the 200 members of the CLP select will virtually certainly be returned to parliament after the election. While Tristram is relatively glamourous, metropolitan and tipped for a ministerial career, this is completely out of kilter with the needs of the constituency. The new MP has to be totally focused on the local regeneration process and improve their accessibility, like having a drop-in centre in the middle of town instead of a pokey office above a telly repair shop in the back of beyond. They need to use their position to rejuvenate the CLP - they could, for example, employ a full time party worker and encourage local unions to actively participate in the party. I would also like to see the new MP work with the local co-op movement to see how the latter can assist regeneration. This needs local knowledge. It's not beyond the ken of a parachutist like Tristram to pick this up, but how can they take an active interest if their head is full of ministerial concerns? Most members of Stoke Central are aware of this.
Allow me to offer Tristram and other would-be parachutists this piece of advice. Don't bother applying for Stoke Central. Your connections might see you placed on the shortlist, but ultimately you will lose out to a local. This leaves you two choices. Try and find another seat where you fancy your chances. Or do something radical like returning to your local CLP and doing the old fashioned local activism thing. If you're any good, you might get selected in a couple of elections' time when your MP steps down or carks it.