A last-minute scramble for one of the safest Labour Parliamentary seats in the country has started after outgoing Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram finally announced he was quitting Westminster.
Rotheram, who won a resounding victory as the new Liverpool City Region Mayor last week, said on Sunday that he would not be standing in the coming general election on June 8.
In his resignation statement, he warned Labour’s National Executive Committee - which will now install a candidate - that his constituency needed a “local representative” rather than an outsider.
Applicants have until 11am on Monday to submit their papers, and the NEC will have to pick the winner swiftly as nomination papers for all candidates for the general election close on Thursday.
Liverpool Walton has a massive 27,000 vote majority and along with Rochdale, where Labour has yet to select, will be the last nomination before the deadline for the election closes.
HuffPost UK revealed last week that Rotheram would step aside, ending months of uncertainty over his intentions, and that Len McCluskey’s aide Dan Carden was favourite to clinch the candidacy for the vacant seat.
An NEC panel made up of the CWU’s Andy Kerr, Unite’s Jim Kennedy and MEP Glenis Willmott is set to decide the winning contender, party sources claim.
Jeremy Corbyn supporter Carden, whose father Mike was a well-known shop steward in the city’s dockers’ strike in the 1990s, was born in the city and has strong union links through his work with Unite the union.
HuffPost has also been told that among his backers are Knowsley MP George Howarth, and former Labour Liverpool MPs Peter Kilfoyle and Joe Benton.
But critics, who worry about a candidate being ‘parachuted’ into the seat, say that Carden lacks the local credentials of other hopefuls such as Liverpool City Mayor Joe Anderson, MEP Theresa Griffin and councillor Dan Hughes.
In his statement, Rotheram said:
“Over the last few weeks, since the announcement of the snap General Election, I have spoken with numerous people to try to ensure that they understand the depth of feeling that a local candidate should be chosen to succeed me – just as my predecessor did when I was selected in 2010.
“I believe that the failure of the Labour Party to allow local representation on the panels to select candidates is a significant misjudgement.
“I have tried my utmost to convince the powers that be that the most acceptable solution would be a local representative on the ballot paper to succeed me as the next Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton, given that there are potentially some high calibre candidates of which to select. Hopefully that may still be the outcome.”
Anderson, who has been leader of Liverpool City Council for seven years and is the directly elected City Mayor, told HuffPost UK that he felt he had the experience “locally and nationally” to represent the seat.
The veteran politician, who beat Rotheram in his own constituency in the Labour selection race for the Liverpool City Metro mayoralty, said that he was proud of his record in the area.
“I want to take the fight to the Tories. I have been a member of the party for 35 years, I have a record that’s second to none in fighting for this city, delivering 8,000 new homes and 23,000 jobs despite the 58% cuts of this Government,” he said.
“It’s important to practice what we preach when we talk about localism. As a Scouser, I wouldn’t expect to take up a position in Newcastle.
“My knowledge and my experience here mean I will be the authentic voice of Labour members and the voters in Walton.”