LABOUR activists in Alistair Darling’s Edinburgh South-West constituency have been given the go-ahead to pick a candidate of their choice to replace the former chancellor at next year’s general election.
A panel of the UK Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided yesterday that the selection process should be an open contest rather than an all-women shortlist.
Mr Darling announced earlier this month that he was standing down as an MP, but the party had said no decision on the seat would be made until after the Scottish Labour leadership contest next month.Given the departing comments of former leader Johann Lamont about the Scottish party being treated like a “branch office”, it would be embarrassing for Labour if a key decision on an Edinburgh seat was taken in London.
The party said a member of the Scottish Executive was included on the panel which made the decision.
Three would-be candidates have declared their interest in the seat – city councillors Ricky Henderson and Norma Austin Hart and Foysol Choudhury, chair of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council.
City council leader Andrew Burns, who was Mr Darling’s election agent, said he was pleased the local party could now get on with the selection.
He said: “I very much welcome the prompt decision by the NEC. It’s crucial the local party selects a candidate at the earliest opportunity.”
On the issue of the decision being made in London, Councillor Burns said: “As things stand at the moment, this is normal practice for a Westminster seat.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “The special panel of the NEC has decided Edinburgh South-West will be an open contest. The constituency is now in charge of selecting a candidate.”