Labour struggle to decide on candidate for Morningside ward

Union members protest against council cuts outside the City Chambers, Edinburgh. Ann Henderson, Assistant Secretary at the Scottish TUC.
Union members protest against council cuts outside the City Chambers, Edinburgh. Ann Henderson, Assistant Secretary at the Scottish TUC.
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LABOUR’S attempts to choose a candidate for a key city ward for this year’s council elections have run into trouble – again.

Party members in Morningside originally chose former MP and councillor Sheila Gilmore to stand for them in the May 4 poll – only to discover she was not eligible.

But when they re-ran the selection process to find a replacement, the vote was tied between the two would-be candidates.

Now a third attempt will be made at a meeting this week.

The contest is between STUC assistant secretary Ann Henderson, a long-standing Labour activist in Edinburgh South and a supporter of Momentum; and Mandy Watt, an accountant and treasurer of Edinburgh Central Labour Party.

One party insider said: “All the other wards had chosen their candidates well before Christmas. This is holding up the launch of Labour’s Edinburgh-wide election campaign.”

Paul Godzik, the Labour councillor who currently represents Morningside along with one Tory, one Scottish Nationalist and one Green, is standing down at the election.

In a bid to achieve gender balance in its council group, Labour decided the selection in Morningside should be women-only.

When the original candidate search began, Ms Gilmore, a former housing convener on the council, who lost her Edinburgh East seat at Westminster in the 2015 general election, emerged as the sole contender.

But after she had been selected it was discovered that she could not stand because she had accepted a £16,000 “golden goodbye” payment to stand down from the council in 2007 as part of a drive to “refresh” local government.

Anyone who took the money was disqualified from ever seeking election to local government again.

The selection process began again and it came down to a straight fight between Ms Henderson and Ms Watt.

An insider said: “There were about 40 people at the selection meeting but the result was a dead heat – they both had exactly the same number of votes. No-one knew what to do – it had never happened before – but now it’s going to be re-run on Wednesday.”

Ms Watt said: “I’m treasurer of Edinburgh Central CLP, a member of the Local Government Forum and the Edinburgh Women’s Forum. I also helped organise the recent anti-cuts conference.

“I campaigned for our candidates every day during the 2012, 2015 and 2016 elections and for Better Together/United with Labour every day of the referendum campaign. I currently work for Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre and the Zero Tolerance charitable trust.”

Ms Henderson: “I have a background in the trade union movement, whilst working in the rail industry for 14 years, to working in community development, social work, and in the Scottish Parliament. Having been the Edinburgh South CLP Secretary for a number of years, I am familiar with the ward.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com