An aide to Unite boss Len McCluskey looks on course for a safe Labour seat in the general election amid increasing speculation that MP Steve Rotheram will step aside, HuffPost UK has been told.
Dan Carden, who works for the general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union, is now favourite to take Liverpool Walton once the selection process is opened.
Rotheram is set to announce his decision to quit Westminster on Friday if, as expected, he wins the first ever election of Liverpool’s new Metro Mayor, party sources said.
A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, Rotheram has been a loyal Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Labour leader since his first landslide victory in 2015.
But in recent weeks he has prevaricated over whether to step aside as an MP, with various local contenders keen to replace him in a seat with a huge Labour majority of 27,000.
Rotheram and fellow former MP Andy Burnham, who is contesting the Manchester Metro Mayoralty, are expected to emerge as two of Labour’s biggest players in local government after the elections on Friday. Burnham has already said he won’t contest his Parliamentary seat of Leigh.
Although there is no requirement forcing Rotheram to choose between being an MP and Mayor, as Ken Livingstone was briefly Mayor of London and an MP, staying at Westminster would raise questions about his ability to do both jobs.
Some party officials also worry about another needless by-election at a later stage.
Liverpool’s current city Mayor and former council leader Joe Anderson has already announced his intention to stand in Walton, and others, including MEP Theresa Griffin and councillor Daniel Hughes, were seen as contenders.
Usually, the local party would select the candidate but the snap general election means the ruling National Executive Committee’s panels now have the power to choose instead.
HuffPost UK understands that left-winger Carden is set to win the selection, as part of a wider deal to carve up vacant seats among trade unions and the leader’s office.
Carden is the son of Mike Carden, a Liverpool dockers’ shop steward during a bitter strike in the 1990s when activists fought attempts to break their union.
A former aide to Labour MP Grahame Morris, he is seen by McCluskey as a trusted aide, who often attends key meetings.
Supporters, including GMB policy chief Neil Foster, say his strong union credentials would be a key asset, as well as his roots in the area.
But if the NEC selection panel opts for Carden it could face a backlash from the local party.
The secretary of Walton constituency Labour party (CLP) is understood to have already written to the NEC to warn against the selection of any candidate who is not clearly local to the area.
And Liverpool councillors and party members are signing a petition urging Jeremy Corbyn to ensure any shortlist includes only local candidates.
“We are not the kind of constituency that puts up with having an outsider coming in,” one local party member told HuffPost UK. “We want someone in our bosom, someone who knows the area and the area knows them.”
In the Labour race for the Metro Mayor selection, Anderson beat Rotheram for the Walton party’s nomination.
Corbyn aide Katy Clark is also being lined up to take the Labour candidacy for Rochdale, which was left vacant this week after the NEC ruled that sitting MP Simon Danczuk should be barred.
If both Carden and Clark win their selections, they would boost the number of MPs needed by any successor to Corbyn to stand in a new leadership election.
Some 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and MEPs are needed, but the current figure of 35 would fall if the party lost a significant number of seats in the general election.
If Labour was reduced to a rump of 150 seats, just 20 MPs would be needed for a new leadership contender and every new MP would be crucial.
Left-winger Laura Pidcock has already been selected for the safe seat of Durham North West, part of the tranche of 12 seats vacated by MPs who decided not to contest the snap election.
Corbyn does not need any nominations to stand in any leadership race but if he were to step aside, the party rules kick in for all candidates.
Rotheram has been asked to comment.
A Unite spokesperson said: “Selections are a matter for the Labour Party.”