Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Do you fancy becoming a Labour MP? How the party cast its cyber-net wide in hunt for new blood

Our diarist notes the frenetic effort Labour is putting into discovering new talent, and why the words of one Bill Oddie are not all they may seem to be
  • @andymcsmith

Dozens of Labour Party members have received a surprise offer by email, asking them if they would be interested in becoming an MP. The party is on the hunt for by-election candidates, and is trying to extend the range of people it can persuade to run.

There are two immediate vacancies, caused by the deaths of the sitting MPs Stuart Bell and Malcolm Wicks. Yesterday, another two long-serving MPs – Alun Michael and Tony Lloyd – resigned to seek election as police commissioners in Manchester and Cardiff, respectively, but their departures were expected and new candidates are already in place.

Remarkably, 10 of the first 12 by-elections of the current Parliament are to be for seats held by Labour held, against one in a Tory constituency and one in the Sinn Fein stronghold of West Belfast. That means other parties get 10 chances to take a seat from Labour, while Labour has only one pop at a rival’s seat – although that is a particularly juicy opportunity, created when Louise Mensch decided to abandon Corby to be with her husband in New York. Four Labour MPs have died in office, three have quit to take other jobs, and two have been forced out because of parliamentary scandals.

Ironically, the by-election that caused Labour the most grief came after Marsha Singh quit because he was terminally ill, and his Bradford West was unexpectedly seized by George Galloway. Casting far and wide for good candidates is one way to prevent that happening again.

Bill Oddie (no relation) wades in to Savile affair

While the BBC has agonised more publicly than anyone else about getting it so wrong over Jimmy Savile, legions of commentators out there do not find it comfortable to be reminded of what they once wrote about him. The eminent Catholic commentator Dr William Oddie, writing a few days after Savile’s death, gave the rest of the media a resounding ticking off for their “conspiracy of silence” about the DJ’s “deep dedication” to the Catholic faith.

Dr Oddie was particularly enchanted by Savile’s jokey question to a Broadmoor patient about why he went around “strangling crumpet” – an example, he wrote, of  “the invulnerability of the truly innocent man”. Dr Oddie has revisited the subject in a more recent blog on the Catholic Herald’s website, in which he grapples with the conundrum of whether Savile was conflicted, or evil through and through.

A democratic route to  an expenses increase

One of the novelties of devolution in Wales is that a measure passed last year requires each local authority to have a “democratic services” committee, chaired by a councillor who is not a member of the party that controls the council, to help rank and file councillors hold the administration to account.

Labour-controlled Bridgend set up its committee in May under the chairmanship of an independent, Jeff Tildesley. This had the immediate effect of increasing Cllr Tildesley’s annual allowances by nearly £10,000, to £23,576. Otherwise, its impact has been nil. Five months on, the committee has yet to meet. Mr Tildesley told the WalesOnLine website that he was “extremely embarrassed”.

MP reaches out to the indie kids of E17

The Labour Co-operative MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, pictured left, is advertising for someone to work in her office, specifying “knowledge of mid- and late-90s indie music beneficial”. This might seem to discriminate against those with the wrong tastes in music, were it not for the promise that those unfamiliar with this genre will get “full training on this subject”.

I do not want to get anyone into trouble, but when I rang Ms Creasy’s office yesterday I found myself talking to someone who knew less about 90s indie music than I do – a low hurdle indeed. Her excuse was that she has not been working there long, and was born in 1994. She added that her employer’s CD collection was “massive”. I understand that in Ms Creasy’s view, the greatest contribution to British music in the 90s came from a band called The Wedding Present.