THE youngest MP to be voted in at the last general election has narrowly escaped a challenge that would have forced her into a potentially damaging contest to remain as the representative of one of Labour’s safest Westminster seats in Scotland.
More than 40 per cent of party members at a recent meeting refused to endorse Pamela Nash as a candidate in 2015 for Airdrie and Shotts, where Labour has a majority of more than 12,000.
Nash, elected as an MP at the age of 25 in 2010, faced a challenge over her candidature, with some Labour members seeing her as too Blairite and others citing concerns over her local profile and performance at Westminster.
Scotland on Sunday has learned that well over a third of Labour members at the party meeting took the highly unusual move of refusing to endorse her at “selection and affirmation” to decide whether the MP would automatically remain as the candidate.
Nash replaced former Defence Secretary John Reid in the seat and has been tipped as a high flyer in the Labour Party. She has held roles as an aide to shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran and shadow Northern Ireland minister Vernon Coaker. However, the MP has been criticised for accepting free tickets from the BBC to this year’s Glastonbury music festival.
A total of 46 out of 101 Labour members at the meeting refused to back the MP in a vote on whether to automatically reselect her as the local party’s general election candidate for the seat.
Nash would have been forced to go through a selection contest, open to other candidates, if she had lost the one-member, one-vote contest during the constituency party meeting at the Gartlea Community Centre in Airdrie.
There were 37 party members who voted against endorsing Nash, with a further eight abstaining and one spoiled ballot paper, in a sign of local dissatisfaction with the MP, who backed David Miliband for the Labour leadership.
She won the backing of 55 party members at the meeting in a result that means she will now go into the 2015 election as Labour’s candidate.
However, a Labour insider said that despite Nash’s victory there remained “deep concerns” about her performance among the party membership in Airdrie and Shotts.
Nash’s selection battle represents the first major challenge to a sitting Labour parliamentarian since the deselection of East Lothian MP Anne Moffat ahead of the 2010 election.
The Labour insider said it was “extremely rare” for MPs to face a high level of opposition when they come up for re-endorsement.
“Normally it’s something that’s just nodded through, but there have been real concerns about Pamela’s visibility and leadership,” they said.
“There’s a perception among some people that she’s rarely in the constituency, which has huge areas of social deprivation, and is instead happy to take freebies at Glastonbury.”
Nash was criticised in November 2010 for failing to represent her constituents after a study showed her to be one of the worst-performing parliamentarians at Westminster.
She came bottom of a list of Scotland’s newest MPs compiled by website TheyWorkForYou.com which looked at the number of questions asked and speeches made in the House of Commons. At the time she had not submitted a single question since being elected and had spoken on just two occasions, one of which was her maiden speech.
Friends pointed out at the time, however, that this survey was just months after her election when she was still settling into her new role.
Nash also missed a Westminster debate she had sought on Scotland’s post- independence membership of the European Union last year.
The MP last night issued a statement thanking party members who voted for her in the selection process as she promised to campaign on issues such as opposition to the controversial “bedroom tax” for the rest of the parliament.
Nash said: “It’s a great honour and privilege to represent my home seat of Airdrie and Shotts, and I am delighted our local Labour party has voted for me to stand as the Labour candidate once again in 2015.
“My focus now is to fight for a Labour win at the next election so that we can deliver on the policies announced by Ed Miliband at Labour Party Conference, including freezing energy prices and abolishing the bedroom tax.”