Political

The conflicting stories behind Labour’s loss of a seat to the Lib Dems in Totnes

A follow-up to my post about the Liberal Democrat council by-election victory in Totnes. The bare figures show a Lib Dem gain (congratulations John Birch) and no Labour candidate on the ballot paper.

There was, however, an independent who was a Labour member but not standing as a Labour candidate. How come? There are conflicting accounts of exactly what happened, but what seems to be common to all of them is that despite the by-election being for a Labour-held seat, the local Labour Party tried and failed to find anyone willing to stand:

Totnes Labour Party on by election defeat

But why was the local Labour Party caught on the hop in this way by a by-election in a Labour seat?

Then someone offered to stand, but they had not been a Labour member for more than a year, which is the usual qualifying period. That, however, is a matter of internal party rules rather than any legal requirement, and several Labour Party members have pointed out that this requirement is often waived. (Which is not unusual – similar things happen in other parties too.)

For whatever reason, the one year rule wasn’t waived and so the person stood as an independent. Their campaign looks to have been very much as an independent, with no Labour logo or mention on their leaflets in the different photos shared of the campaign leaflets. Her interview with the press, tweeted without complaint or clarification subsequently, also talked about being an independent candidate without mention of Labour, as did a video interview again also tweeted with complaint or clarification.

All rather a mess, which Labour MPs such as Ben Bradshaw have been blaming on a Corbynista take-over of the local party resulting in the local party not being run competently.

UPDATE: The excuse that the local Labour Party was caught on the hop is all the odder because the concurrent town council by-elections, which also saw Labour members standing as independents, were actually called… by the local Labour Party as this contrasting pair of screenshots shared with me by a Liberal Democrat member highlight:

Totnes Labour Party screenshot

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