`Surely we all deserve a voice'

Sarah Schaefer
Tuesday 01 September 1998 23:02

THE SELECTION process for Swindon North's prospective parliamentary candidate at the last general election was regarded as the classic cut- throat battle between Old and New Labour.

Competing were Jim D'Avila, a union-backed, home-grown toolmaker, and Michael Wills, a London-based television producer and former adviser to the then Shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

After the process was stalled by court action prompted by allegations of ballot-rigging, the party's National Executive Committee finally selected Mr Wills as a candidate. Mr Wills later won the safe seat.

So it comes as no surprise that Mr D'Avila, 47, hailed the AEEU's pounds 1m fighting fund as essential aid for people with his background in the selection process. "It will help tremendously because the leadership has their favourites who will get fast-track promotions while whispering campaigns against local activists are conducted at the same time," he said.

Mr D'Avila left his comprehensive school at 16 to join the Swindon Rover factory as a toolmaker and soon became a member of AEEU. He has worked at the factory ever since.

"Parliament should represent the whole country ... but, before the last election, most of the candidates selected were all middle class. Surely people with my class background deserve a voice too - particularly in a party which has always been one-member-one-vote."

Mr D'Avila, now the constituency chairman of the North Swindon Labour Party, has been a councillor for 21 years. "I know what problems workers on the shop-floor have and I have represented them for many years," he said.

"I campaigned against Clause Four and support Tony Blair - I am hardly from the Loony Left."

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