The intense battle for Scottish Labour's top 20 marginal seats

The first in a series of articles in The Red Robin covering the selection process of Scottish Labour’s candidates for Westminster. 


The 20 most marginal constituencies in Scotland are due to select their candidates over the following weeks, with all-women shortlists in place for half of the seats, in an attempt to boost the number of winnable seats in which female candidates are run. The Scottish Executive Committee (SEC) has decided that where there was a female candidate in 2017 there will be an AWS, and where there was a male candidate there will be an open shortlist. 

The process is likely to be intensely fought between different factions within Scottish Labour. 

Opponents had argued for the use of ‘twinning’, which would decide on the use of all-women shortlists (AWS) on the basis of geographical location, rather than whether the Labour was likely to win the seat or not, which critics branded as a 'factional ploy' that could relegate the use of AWS seats Labour is less likely to take next election.

After a rule change passed at National Conference, after lobbying by then leader of Scottish Labour Kecia Dugdale, Scottish Labour is now autonomous in terms of its parliamentary selection procedures, with the Scottish Executive Committee acting as the arbitrator.

Due to the short-timeframe of the 2017 snap election, it was the SEC that chose which candidates would contest seats, something the new leader Richard Leonard is keen not to repeat in the event of another snap election. 

The selection procedures are likely to be tight in several constituencies, especially the ultra-marginal seats of Glasgow South-West and Glasgow East, both of which Labour came within 100 votes of taking last year.

There is likely to be a huge impact of the large number of people that joined the Labour Party to vote for Anas Sarwar in last year's leadership contest.  

The selection battle in Glasgow South-West has come under intense media scrutiny, after opponents of the previous parliamentary candidate, Matt Kerr, accused the party leadership of racism, arguing that the March cut-off date disenfranchised party members from ethnic minorities who had signed up to vote in the leadership election. Labour sources have denied this, pointing out that independent legal advice backed up the date in March. 

Concerns have been previously raised over whether some of those who joined the party to vote in the leadership contest were aware that they had been registered, with several instances of multiple people joining the party using the same address, mobile phone number and email address. 

Westminster selections are further complicated in Scotland, as a 2011 review of party structures has meant that Constituency Labour Parties were redrawn along Scottish Parliament lines, meaning that in practice Westminster boundaries often cover several separate local parties. 

Momentum’s sister organisation, the Scottish Campaign for Socialism, will likely seek to use its newfound influence on the party to see more left-wing candidates selected in marginal constituencies, arguing that Scottish Labour’s recent revival is down to the popularity of Labour’s 2017 manifesto, and more left-wing direction taken under Jeremy Corbyn. 

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