All-female shortlist for would-be Burnley Labour MP

Julie Cooper.
Julie Cooper.

Burnley’s Labour parliamentary candidate will once again be a woman after a decision was taken to have an all-female shortlist.

Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) made the decision, just as it did in 2005 when Kitty Ussher was eventually elected as MP.

In 2010, Burnley’s Labour members voted from an open list, but current group leader Julie Cooper was chosen as the candidate. She was defeated by Liberal Democrat Gordon Birtwistle.

Coun. Cooper has once again thrown her hat in the ring and is the likely favourite to run as Labour’s candidate in the next General Election, probably in 2015.

But Coun. Cooper has already faced opposition to her candidacy from outside the party.

Hywel Morgan, Liberal Democrat agent at the 2010 election, called on her to step aside because she was the preferred candidate of the Unite union, which has become embroiled in a voting controversy in Falkirk.

He said: “People in Burnley need to know that Labour are picking their candidate in a fair and open selection. Not one where the playing field was tilted in the favour of a candidate pre-vetted by Union barons.”

But Coun. Cooper said she had nothing to hide.

She said: “I’ve been a Labour member for 30 years, long before I was a member of Unite. It’s no secret I am the preferred candidate of Unite.

“I also have the support of other unions, the Co-operative party and non-union members of Burnley Labour group.

“At the end of the day, the unions can only nominate and advise. Beyond the shortlist, it doesn’t matter. It is a private ballot and one member one vote.

“I think the Liberal Democrats need to concentrate on their own campaign.”

On the issue of the all-female list, Coun. Cooper said it was a decision made nationally in an attempt to create more women MPs.

She added: “I have asked to be considered. There will be a shortlist, local members will vote and then the electorate will decide who they want to be the MP for Burnley.”