Labour has once again banned men from becoming the party’s candidate in an important West Midlands seat, after imposing an all-women shortlist in Walsall South.
But the decision has drawn further attention to the decision to allow men to apply for the position of Labour candidate in Birmingham Erdington - where Jack Dromey, husband of Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, has thrown his hat in the ring.
The party’s National Executive Committee imposed an all-women shortlist in Walsall South after sitting MP Bruce George announced he was standing down after 36 years in Parliament.
Party activists will only be allowed to consider women when choosing a candidate for the seat, where Labour won a majority of 7,946 in 2005.
And it followed the imposition of an all-women shortlist in Dudley South, where the party is also in the process of choosing a new candidate to replace outgoing MP Ian Pearson.
Labour will be defending a majority of 4,244 in the Dudley seat, and making it a key Tory target in this year’s General Election.
But there was no restriction on men applying for the candidacy in Erdington, the safest Labour seat in the region to become vacant recently, where the party enjoyed a majority of 9,575 in 2005.
This has allowed Mr Dromey, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, and treasurer of the Labour Party, to step forward as a contender.
Outgoing Erdington MP Sion Simon, like his colleagues in Walsall South and Dudley South, waited until an election was imminent before announcing plans to quit the House of Commons.
As a result, Labour’s National Executive Committee based in London has more control over who the party’s candidate will be than usual. It drew up a shortlist of potential candidates for each constituency, giving local party members a limited choice of candidates.
Tory MP Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield), the Shadow Minister for Birmingham, said: “This all smells rather fishy and looks very much like the rules have been used to help Mr Dromey.
“There’s one rule for ordinary Labour party members and clearly another rule for trade union leaders who are married to Labour’s deputy leader.”
One Labour source said the decision to use an all-women shortlist in Walsall South followed concern that Labour had few female MPs in the Black Country, with Lynda Waltho (Lab Stourbridge) and Sylvia Heal (Lab Halesowen and Rowley Regis) being the only exceptions.
“We have selected Emma Reynolds in Wolverhampton North East and Dudley South will have a female candidate, but even then it still won’t be great.”