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EXCLUSIVE: Rebel Labour MP’s seat could go to gay candidate

Tony Grew May 9, 2008
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A leading Labour party activist has said he is “flattered” by approaches from party members asking him to stand in Vauxhall.

The current MP, Kate Hoey, caused outrage among Labour members in London when it was announced during the Mayor of London election campaign that she had agreed to become an adviser to Conservative Boris Johnson if he was elected.

She claimed that she was not in breach of party rules banning members from supporting candidates from other parties, and made a comparison with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s appointment of a handful of Tory MPs to advisory positions.

However, Labour activists in her Vauxhall constituency are talking openly of deselecting the veteran MP, a former Minister for Sport.

Mr Johnson was elected Mayor of London last week, but there have been no further announcements about what role Ms Hoey will take in his administration.

In a BBC radio interview earlier this week Lee Jasper, former Mayor Ken Livingstone’s adviser on race issues, said he was interested in running for Ms Hoey’s seat as the Labour candidate and said he had been approached. has learnt that Gavin Hayes, the general secretary of left-leaning pressure group Compass, is being touted as a more viable challenger to Ms Hoey.

“Gavin was a prominent activist in the Vauxhall constituency party until a few months ago,” a source in the local party said.

“Compass has focused on trying to re-engage the party’s grassroots and return to more traditional Labour values, something which could prove popular with the large white working class vote in the constituency.

“He has also worked for Progress, so he can attract support from the Right of the party too. Many people are furious with Kate’s record, not just this latest thing with Boris. She continues to campaign against the ban on fox hunting, which doesn’t go down well in inner London.

“Lee Jasper’s suggestion that he could be a candidate is laughable – not only is he just as divisive a figure as Kate, he had to resign from City Hall amid allegations of corruption and a sex scandal.

“Gavin would be a good unity candidate, and he is gay, which is also useful in Vauxhall, given that it has one of the largest LGBT populations of any London constituency.”

There have also been suggestions that the leader of Lambeth council, Steve Reed, could be parachuted in.

Mr Reed, who is gay, recently failed to win selection for the Streatham constituency and is highly-thought of.

For Ms Hoey to be forced out she would have to be deselected by the local party or expelled by the National Executive Committee.

However, Ms Hoey has already been re-selected for the next election by the constituency Labour party.

Also, Labour has a policy of replacing departing women MPs with an all-female shortlist.

Ms Hoey, 61, has been MP for Vauxhall since 1989.

During the Mayor of London election campaign Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick, who had worked with her during his time in the Met police, described her as “bonkers.”

Her support for the Countryside Alliance, of which she is chair, has been extremely controversial.

The pro-hunting group attempted to unseat some Labour MPs in rural areas during the 2005 general election.

She has rebelled against her party on everything from a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty to university top-up fees and opposed the London bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Hayes told that Ms Hoey’s future is a matter for the National Executive Committee and the local party.

“I’m flattered by the messages of support I’ve received in recent days with regards to the Vauxhall seat,” he said.

“I deplore Kate Hoey’s flouting of Labour Party rules by supporting Boris Johnson in the recent Mayoral elections, this is not the first time she has let her local party down and in my opinion the community she is supposed to represent.

“However this is a matter for the NEC and the local party to resolve.

“At this moment in time there is no position vacant, but if the situation changes, I’d like to be upfront in saying that if I had the support I’d think very seriously about standing to be Labour’s PPC for Vauxhall.

“As a former activist in Vauxhall I believe it’s imperative for the party to have a candidate at the next election who can refresh and energise things locally, who is willing to stand on a Labour ticket for Labour’s values and who can attract widespread support from all sections of the party and local community in order to unite and win Vauxhall for Labour at the next election.”

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