Labour HQ to write shortlists

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Indy Politics
The Labour leadership is planning to impose shortlists on up to five constituencies which have not yet chosen their candidates for the general election.

The move is bound to increase speculation - denied by national officials - that Labour will try to place the Tory defector Alan Howarth in one of its few remaining safe seats.

There are also rumours that a sitting MP may announce his or her retirement shortly before the election, allowing the leadership to choose its own candidate.

The decision, to be confirmed by the party's National Executive Committee tomorrow, would remove local constituency parties from the selection process.

The safe seats where the leadership is likely to be involved in the shortlisting include Don Valley, whose MP Martin Redmond died last week. Members in the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, where Peter Shore is retiring, were told two weeks ago that their shortlist was to be drawn up by the national executive. Tory strongholds South Ribble in Lancashire and Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester will also be included.

Two constituencies where the local party has been suspended because of allegations of membership rigging will also have their selection processes truncated. In Bradford West, the NEC will interview the local party's nominees, while in Birmingham all the 13 people nominated by wards and other organisations in Sparkbrook and Small Heath will compete in a ballot.

A spokesman for Labour's north-west region said it would be in a good position to advise the party about the applicants.

"We have a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week dialogue with these constituencies ... We have the inside information," he said.