I read a quotation from Andy Burnham yesterday on LabourList about the Labour party being too London-centric and it got me thinking about an issue that has been annoying me for some time now. Namely the habit that the Labour party has of parachuting candidates into safe seats around election time.
In the election just gone Tristram Hunt in Stoke on Trent Central and Luciana Berger in Liverpool Wavertree were probably the two most high profile candidates which caused discontent amongst their local party activists but I'm sure there were others standing in both the general and local elections. For anyone who thinks these were just a one off I also seem to remember there being a similar outcry when a certain David Miliband was selected to contest the 2001 general election in South Shields.
It would be nice if the party that claims to represent the working class people of this country actually selected some of them to stand come election time instead of bringing in these London based candidates on a fast track to the cabinet, or shadow cabinet I should say. I have nothing against these people personally, and they may turn out to be good MPs for their constituents but how can the party that claims to offer equal opportunity for all regardless of class or social upbringing continue along a path that means at selection time it's not what you know or what you've done but who you know in central office that matters.
This may not be a particularly popular policy but I would go as far as legislating to prevent this kind parachuting by introducing a rule requiring any candidate to be a council tax paying resident of the constituency in which they wish to stand for a minimum period. You might get away with setting that period at one year but I'd be happy to see it set to the length of the previous parliament for a general election.
To be clear I don't live in any of the constituencies I've mentioned above but if and when my Labour MP chooses to stand down I personally know several people within the local CLP who would make an excellent MP. I just hope that they are given the opportunity to prove it when the time comes.