How will Labour deal with the abolition of the Normanton seat?
The news before the weekend that Labour’s effort to save the Normantion seat has been turned down by the high court was over-shadowed by the Head of the Army’s comments about Iraq. Although not on the same scale the court’s backing for the Boundary Committee’s ruling sets Labour an enormous problem.
An indication of the importance of this is that the local Labour council risked being attacked for agreeing to fund the appeal to try to over-turn the Boundary Committee’s ruling. Would that have happened if other people had been affected?
For Gordon Brown’s closest aide for more than a decade and 2nd favourite to succeed him as Chancellor, Ed Balls sits for the constituency that is being abolished. Another seat has to be found for him or else he’ll be out of parliament after the next election.
What’s likely to be an interesting little side-show is how party bosses will go about doing this. For given his likely position in a Gordon Brown cabinet there is one thing that is absolutely certain – Balls will be an MP after the next election.
The problem he has got is the difficulty the national party might have in imposing him on a local party. Labour has many more powers than the national Tory party in this respect but interfering in candidate selection can be very tricky especially in safe seats.
And does Balls want to risk the possibility of being turned down if he enters a selection race? That could be very damaging especially if he does succeed to the Chancellorship.
My guess is that they might try a Shaun Woodward solution. David Cameron’s predecessor at Witney defected to Labour in 2000 amid suggestions that he had been promised a safe seat. Nothing happened until almost the last moment when he was “parachuted” – butler and all – into his new seat in St. Helens.
No doubt some trustie MP with long-service, a comfortable majority and a local party that’s thought will not cause trouble will be promised a peerage or some other such goodie in return for pulling out when the election is imminent and there’s no time for a proper selection. Who will it be? Could be worth a betting market.
Meanwhile the uncertainty over the Balls seat has not affected the betting in the next Chancellor market. He is currently at 2.25/1. Alistair Darling is favourite at just over 2/1. I’ve long fancied Balls in this market. He has worked so closely with Brown that it’s hard to see anybody else being able to fit the role. Also, unlike Darling, he is not Scottish and my guess is that Brown feels sensitive on that point. An Oxford-educated Englishman would look better in this key role.