Tomorrow 11 people still in the race to be Stoke Central's Labour MP after the general election will be interviewed in London. According to Peter Kenyon they will be grilled by Keith Vaz, Cllr Ann Lucas of Coventry, and USDAW deputy general secretary Paddy Lillis. So who are these folk lucky enough to make it onto the long list?
In the 'no surprises' category are Jane Heggie, Rob Flello MP's office manager, Sarah Hill, leading light of Labour's 'City Party', historian Tristram Hunt, and Byron Taylor of the Trade Union and Labour Liason Organisation (website here). I was unsurprised but disappointed left wingers like Mike Ion and Mark Seddon didn't clear the first hurdle, nor did various other locals who threw their hats in the ring.
Who are the others that made it?
Neil Goulbourne is a GP from Coventry and a member of the Labour affiliated Socialist Health Association. A verbatim transcript of a talk he gave on health inequality can be found here.
Mervyn Smith is only one of three local names to have got through. He was part of former Labour mayor Mark Meredith's "advisory panel" and remains one of his supporters in Stoke Central CLP. He lost his council seat in the Labour wipeout of 2008.
Sajjad-Hussein Malik is a sitting councillor in Oxford where he holds the sports and leisure portfolio in the council cabinet. Interestingly he defected from the LibDems as a councillor as recently as 2006. He previously made the shortlist to replace disgraced MP Elliot Morley.
Fadel Takrouri is a nuclear physicist(!) and pharmacist. He was born in Palestine and is another Coventry applicant. He is a member of Labour's Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) group as the representative of Arabs for Labour.
Kamaljeet Jandu has, according to this profile, a long history in the trade union movement and is now the GMB's national officer for equality.
Joe Ukemenam is a former UN ambassador to several African countries and is currently a journalist. He is also chair of a Unison voluntary organisation branch.
Zahid Nawaz is West Midlands regional manager for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a former parliamentary researcher and has served in a variety of capacities as an international relations/security consultant. He also sits on the WestMids police authority, where he's curiously described as an independent.
None of the above would be my first choice for candidate, but as a trade unionist I'm drawn to Byron Taylor and Kamaljeet Jandu. Unfortunately, the CLP grapevine has it that Byron does not plan to move to the constituency should he be successful. If that's right he can kiss his chances goodbye. Apart from these two, none of the remaining five really do it for me.
That said I am warming slightly to Tristram Hunt. Like several other candidates he's been out and about this week and has made clear what he's standing for. His pledges are:
* Fight to keep schools located in our communities
* Use his business, political and media skills to bring investment, regeneration, tourism and jobs
* Work to promote Stoke's profile nationally
* Take the fight to the BNP
* Build a vibrant and inclusive local party
* Liaise with community groups, police and council to tackle anti-social behaviour
* Move himself and his family to the constituency
* Keep his expenses transparent and open
Not a programme for the abolition of capitalism by any means, but well within the mainstream of Labour party opinion.
Who will make the shortlist? Assuming there will be five names Tristram is a dead cert, as is Sarah Hill. I think Jane Heggie and Byron Taylor are very probable too. As for the fifth, I would be surprised if one of the Coventry names didn't get through. And who will get the big prize? It's difficult to say. Last week I pooh-poohed Tristram's chances, but now I think this was a mistake. The problem with Jane and Sarah is they are too associated with region's side of the interminable dispute between it and the CLP, and it is a relationship that will cost them dear when it comes to the selection vote. Tristram on the other hand - despite his association with the Prince of Darkness - is an untainted figure.
On a final note I will say the selection process has been a shoddy disgrace - it should be up to the elected officers of CLPs to determine who gets on the long and short lists, not the party machine.
Monday update: I have heard Byron Taylor does after all intend to move to the constituency.
Monday evening update: Byron Taylor, Jane Heggie, Sarah Hill and Mervyn Smith didn't make the shortlist. So that's no local candidates and means Tristram is now the clear front runner. The selection meeting on Thursday will be most interesting.