Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Reading West selection

As I posted a copy of a report about Mark Bennett, who I thought, and still think, was the only candidate who could win Reading West for Labour, it seems fair to post his reply, here:

Dear Friends

I just wanted to thank you for your support whilst I was a candidate in the Reading West selection. I say was because I am no longer a candidate. I won't comment here on the process but I was not shortlisted, despite the nominations and goodwill I received.With a council by-election ongoing in Lambeth and my council portfolio (community safety) there are many day-to-day challenges to get on with. My enthusiasm is undimmed.I will also be doing the London to Brighton bike ride in June and it would cheer me up if you could think about sponsoring me! to Reading West, you may have seen the following in the Sunday Telegraph (if you did I hope you don't buy it), which I would like to comment on."Another battlefield on which Labour’s future will be settled is the selection of general election candidates.The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered an attempt to parachute a Blairite into a winnable seat following the fiasco at Erith & Thamesmead where a bid to win the selection for Georgia Gould, the 22-year-old daughter of Lord Gould, Mr Blair’s polling guru, has ended up with an investigation into alleged tampering with postal votes.In Reading West, where retiring MP Martin Salter hands over a Labour majority of more than 4,600, Mark Bennett, who used to be Alastair Campbell’s deputy at 10 Downing Street and who was said to have been the author of a critical memo about Gordon Brown, suddenly joined the contest “from nowhere” according to local sources.Armed with glossily printed letters to party members, Mr Bennett won significant support before falling to a pincer movement and failing to make the final shortlist.However, Labour sources expect Blairites to use similar techniques across the country where seats suddenly become vacant in a bid to “change the face of the parliamentary Labour Party” and bolster the chances of a Blairite candidate in a future leadership election."

I have written the following letter to the Sunday Telegraph.

Dear Sir

Patrick Hennessy's article describing me as a 'Blairite' parachute candidate in Reading West needs correction.I do not identify as Blairite, Brownite, New Labour, Old Labour or any of the labels that are attached to people by others for their own negative purposes. I identify only as Labour and totally disapprove of factions seeking to out-left or out-right each other.I have been a Labour activist for 17 years, and a trade unionist for longer. I started work as a hospital porter aged 17 while Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. That does not make me a Thatcherite, and to label me a Blairite because I worked at Downing Street (as a civil servant) from 1997-2001 is equally simplistic. It is true I worked for Alastair Campbell in Downing Street, but I was not his deputy as Mr Hennessy claims. I was a researcher, as a glance at his diaries will show.Nor was there any parachuting in Reading West - it was my own decision to stand and like many other candidates I have pounded the pavements alone. There was no machine helping me. The 'significant support' referred to came from across the Labour movement, and I am grateful for it. As for 'glossily printed letters' to members - such luxuries were not open to me. I have never been wealthy and come from a working class, Labour-supporting family rooted in Reading and Berkshire. I have known Reading since I was a baby. My grandfather, Tom Bennett, was born into poverty in what is now Reading West and I have family living and working across Reading. So describing me as "from nowhere" in respect of Reading West or Labour politics is false. I have worked hard as a Labour councillor in Lambeth for four years, with a crime portfolio, so I am not untested as a working politician.I do not recognise the 'memo critical of Gordon Brown' to which Mr Hennessy refers, and in fact I volunteer for Go Fourth: The Campaign for a Labour Fourth Term. I believe in party unity and in Labour in government. I will continue to do so. Finally, I offer whoever is finally selected in Reading West my best wishes.Yours faithfullyCllr Mark BennettCabinet Member for Community SafetyLabour and Co-operative councillor for Streatham SouthLondon Borough of LambethAnyway, members of this group, apologies for a longwinded email and thanks so much for your support. It meant a lot.Yours everMark

It is on his facebook group, which is where I saw it.


Anonymous said...

He sounds OK, wonder why the local party didn't go for him? Naz it is then, they really have lost it.

Anonymous said...

WHat does he mean by 'born into poverty'?

Dave said...

It is a crying shame and yet another disgrace to Reading politics that this guy was chopped out of the running by jealous so called 'local' forces of Gittings and Co and a gullable GC. Jane is 100% right that Mark Bennett could have won Reading West for Labour. I feeel proud to have met him and can say a guy of that calebre with his ideas and drive would have made our ideal candidate. I say that as a local member no fan of Jane and now on the point of resigning from what seems to have become the 'nasty' party.

Anonymous said...

I think being 'born into poverty' means his family were not well off - pretty obvious to me?! Surprised someone on a Labour blog should ask what that means..?
His trademark feature is tireless campaigning and he was instrumental in getting Streatham back from the Lib Dems. I have never seen anyone manage to get so many people organised and campaigning, it was a military operation and a real team effort.