A DEFEATED Parliamentary candidate is concerned at the high level of postal voting at a selection meeting.
Susan Press lost out to Tony Blair’s stepmother-in-law Steph Booth in last week’s contest to become Labour candidate for Calder Valley, which includes Brighouse and Elland.
Mrs Press won the vote at the hustings in Myhtolmroyd last Thursday by 35 votes to 22. However, Mrs Booth triumphed in the postal vote by 73 to 17, giving her an overall victory by 95 votes to 52.
Speaking exclusively to the Examiner yesterday (Wednesday), Mrs Press expressed concern that 90 out of 147 party members voted by post rather than at the selection meeting itself.
She said: "I think there’s a lot of concern within the Labour Party about the way in which postal votes can determine a Parliamentary selection. Party rules clearly state that postal voting should only be allowed for people who are disabled or housebound.
"As someone who believes in democracy, I feel the hustings should be the primary decision-making forum. It’s there that party members get the chance to hear candidates make the case as to why they should be selected."
Mrs Press, who is mayor of Hebden Royd Town Council, added: "I think other people in the party are taking up this issue with the regional party, but it’s not for me to do so."
Another Labour Party Parliamentary selection has also been hit by postal voting controversy.
John Austin, who is standing down as MP for the London seat of Erith and Thamesmead, has written to local party members expressing concern at the high level of postal voting to choose his successor.
Mrs Press said: "There are concerns all over the country about postal voting being used in this way."
However, a Yorkshire Labour Party spokesman said Mrs Booth would remain the candidate for Calder Valley.
He said: "The selection of Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Calder Valley was carried out under the rules and procedures set down by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
"The ballot gave a clear victory to Steph Booth as the chosen candidate, and she is now working hard campaigning on the real issues of concern for ordinary residents in the Calder Valley."
Mrs Booth, who lives in Todmorden, is married to Tony Booth, father of former Prime Minster Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie.
Labour’s selection of a Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley has been hit by controversy before.
Mrs Booth lost out to Hebden Bridge woman Janet Oosthuysen by five votes in a selection contest last year.
However, the Labour Party dropped Mrs Oosthuysen as their Parliamentary candidate in January after it emerged that she had been cautioned by police for scratching her ex-boyfriend’s car.
Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty is standing down at the next election. The Labour woman had a majority of 1,367 over the Conservatives at the last poll in 2005.
Rastrick councillor Craig Whittaker, who will contest the seat for the Tories, refused to be drawn into the controversy about Mrs Booth yesterday (Wednesday).
He said: "It’s an internal thing for the Labour Party, they have to do what they have to do.
"I’m taking nothing for granted and I will fight – whether against Steph Booth or Janet Oosthuysen – until close of polls to make sure we win."