Daughter of Blair guru loses her bid for safe seat

Impeccable New Labour credentials count for nothing to party rank and file after bitter and brutal campaign in south-east London

An attempt by the 22-year-old daughter of Tony Blair's polling guru Philip Gould to claim one of Labour's safest parliamentary seats ended in defeat yesterday after she came a poor third in a bitter and brutal fight that has been filled with charges of nepotism, and marred by a vote-rigging scandal and charges of dirty tricks.

Georgia Gould, whose mother, Gail Rebuck, is the head of Random House publishers, caused consternation among the rank and file in the solid Labour seat of Erith and Thamesmead in south-east London, when she launched her bid to replace the sitting MP, John Austen, who is standing down at the next election.

At a secret hustings last night, Ms Gould's brutal introduction to the rough world of local politics ended in defeat.

Party members chose Teresa Pearce, a 54-year-old former Labour councillor and tax expert with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Second was the former Labour minister, Melanie Johnson, with Ms Gould in a distant third place.

"Teresa won decisively," said London's Labour Party spokesman Philip Dilkes. Ms Pearce said her job now was to "rebuild the trust" of voters in the local party.

Following her humiliating third place, Ms Gould tried to heal wounds by throwing her support behind the winner, saying she supported her "100 per cent" and would campaign for her.

Oxford graduate Ms Gould had been accused of attempting to parachute into a safe seat through her impeccable New Labour credentials.

Her father, Lord Gould, was given his peerage by Mr Blair for his role in helping to found New Labour: there are photos of Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, bouncing Ms Gould on his knee when she was a baby. Her mother is a close friend of the Blairs. Eyebrows were also raised when Alastair Campbell and Tessa Jowell lent Ms Gould their public support.

In her defence, her mother said last month that Ms Gould – a graduate of Oxford University where she was secretary of the Labour Club – had been a party organiser at the age of 18. "She was fighting a campaign in Mitcham and Morden before she went to university," Ms Rebuck said, "getting up at 6am and coming back at midnight,"

The hustings had been due to take place last month, but got postponed after a sealed election box was broken into and postal votes destroyed.

Her supporters were also accused of going door-to-door urging party members to fill out postal votes. By the time the ballot box was broken into, a third of party members had voted by post, an unusually high number.

All postal votes were cancelled, and an internal party investigation of the break-in is under way.

There was further discontent over national party interference earlier this month when the constituency chairman, Frank Lerner, was axed by the Labour Party general secretary, Ray Collins. Mr Lerner, a pensioner and former headmaster, had written to every member of the local party outlining the ballot box shenanigans, an act Mr Collins considered "detrimental to the party". He had also complained that the "harassment" of voters over postal votes broke party rules.

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