Labour's new guard 'same as old guard'

Party looks to traditional sources in selecting its candidates for key seats
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Indy Politics

Half of the next generation of Labour MPs will have been prominent local councillors and a fifth drawn from senior union ranks, research by The Independent discloses today.

The party appears to be retreating to its comfort zone by looking inwards for candidates to defend key seats at the next election. It will raise fears that Labour is failing to recruit young high-fliers to be its stars of the future.

The trend, which also sees Labour drawing heavily on public and voluntary-sector employees, is in contrast to the Tories, whose would-be MPs predominantly have backgrounds in business and industry.

The Independent has analysed the backgrounds of the 59 Labour candidates chosen so far in seats where the party's MPs are stepping down.

Twenty-nine are serving or former local councillors, of whom nine have been council or Labour group leaders.

They include Simon Burgess, the former leader of Brighton council, who is standing in the city's Kemptown constituency; Ronnie Hughes, the former leader of Conwy council, who is standing in Aberconwy; and Michael Boaden, the leader of the Labour group in Carlisle, who will contest the city at the election.

Another three have close relatives who have been councillors in the area where they are standing for Parliament.

Eleven candidates are either union activists or employees, including Donna Hutton, a regional officer for Unison, who is contesting Clwyd West, and Julie Elliott, a political officer for the GMB, who is standing in Sunderland South.

Seven work in the public sector, including five lecturers or university staff, while another five have jobs in the voluntary sector. Seven are solicitors or barristers. Just six work in private business or industry. Two former MPs have also been selected for Labour-held seats – the ex-minister Stephen Twigg in Liverpool West Derby and Geraint Davies in Swansea West.

The ex-MP Andy King will be standing again in Rugby, the seat he lost at the election but which is now notionally Labour because of boundary changes.

Former Downing Street aides John Woodcock and Emma Reynolds have won the nominations for Barrow and Furness and Wolverhampton North East respectively.

The selection of so many councillors is likely to reflect the fact that Labour candidates are chosen on a one-member-one-vote basis, a system favouring party stalwarts well-known to local members. Recent research suggests that an average of just 40 party members take part in selection meetings.

The figures will underline the Blairites' fears that the party is becoming too introspective in selecting candidates.