The shortlist to be Labour’s candidate in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election has been revealed. There are just three names on it: Debbie Abrahams, Abdul Jabbar and Riaz Ahmad.
Each will be familiar to many people in our area. Mrs Abrahams was Labour’s candidate in the neighbouring Colne Valley constituency at the general election in May, but although the party had held the seat since 1997, she finished in third place. She used to be the Chair of Rochdale Primary Care Trust.
You can read and listen to her interview with Saddleworth News from the general election campaign here.
Cllr Jabbar is a senior figure within the opposition Labour group on Oldham Council. He represents Coldhurst, and currently shadows the Performance and Value for Money portfolio. He’s a former Mayor of the borough.
Mr Ahmad is a former Labour councillor and another one-time Mayor of Oldham, who currently serves as the Chair of NHS Oldham. During his time as Deputy Mayor in 2001, he played a high-profile role in attempting to calm tensions following the race riots. Just weeks after the violence, his Chadderton home was infamously attacked.
That line-up means there’s no place for the man who had been considered the front-runner for the nomination, Manchester councillor Afzal Khan. Labour sources said more than 80 people applied, with a longlist of about 20 interviewed by a party panel in London today.
Another strongly-fancied contender to miss out was Josh MacAlister, an Oldham teacher and former student politician. He wrote on Twitter this evening: “I have amazing friends an family! Thanks to everyone. Now let’s win Oldham East and wipe the smile off Elwyn’s face!”
That’s a reference to Elwyn Watkins, the Liberal Democrat who narrowly lost to the now-disgraced Phil Woolas in the general election, and who will be standing again in the by-election. The general election result was declared void by a specially-convened court, after judges agreed with Mr Watkins that Mr Woolas had knowingly lied about him in campaign leaflets.
Kashif Ali, who finished a close third in May, is also expected to return as the Conservative candidate. Euro MP Paul Nuttall is standing for UKIP, the Greens are putting up advice worker Peter Allen from Glossop, while BNP leader Nick Griffin is also thought likely to enter the contest.
The three contenders on the Labour shortlist will now face a private hustings meeting in front of local party members in Oldham on Sunday. The members will then vote on who they want to be their candidate.
The details of the shortlist were first revealed on Twitter by the BBC’s political editor in the North West, Arif Ansari. You can follow him here.
(UPDATE 11/12: Arif has now written a blogpost about the shortlist, including a link to this site, which you can read here)
For full coverage of the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election from Saddleworth News, click here.