Bill Walker by-election: Final five revealed

Former police inspector Tom McInally is interviewed today. Picture: Kate Chandler
Former police inspector Tom McInally is interviewed today. Picture: Kate Chandler
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A FORMER police inspector and an ex-Edinburgh council leader are among the five people hoping to be selected as Labour’s candidate for the by-election to replace convicted wife-beater Bill Walker.

As Labour’s nomination deadline passed, the names in contention were councillors Cara Hilton and Lesley Laird, party activist Fiona Yates, former Lothians police inspector Tom McInally and former council boss Ewan Aitken.

Scottish Labour’s executive will today pick a final shortlist of candidates in a party selection contest that has been dominated by calls for a female candidate.

There was a fresh call last night to make the selection a women-only contest when the final shortlist is placed before Labour members tomorrow for a vote on picking the candidate.

Labour’s plans to select its next candidate for Dunfermline from an all-women shortlist were recently abandoned.

The by-election was triggered by Walker’s resignation following his conviction for assaulting his three ex-wives.

Ms Hilton, who works for Labour MP Thomas Docherty, said the selection should still “ideally be an all-women shortlist” .

The Fife councillor said “there have been a lot of calls to select a woman” even though party chiefs decided to hold an open selection for the by-election.

Susan Dalgety, a former ministerial adviser to Jack McConnell, and pro-independence campaigner Kate Higgins – both writing in The Scotsman earlier this week – urged the main parties to “make a strong statement about the place of women in our society” by choosing female candidates for the election in the wake of Walker’s conviction for domestic violence.

Other leading party figures such as Labour front-bencher Jenny Marra, Katy Clark MP and John Park, strategy and policy director at the Community union, have all called for a female candidate to be selected.

Mr McInally, who served as a police officer for over 30 years, said Walker’s violent conduct had convinced him to put his name forward when the shortlist was opened up to males as well as females.

He said: “I was fully expecting it to be an all-women shortlist and I would have had no problem with that at all, but because it opened up I took the opportunity because I was fired up by Bill Walker’s disgraceful behaviour.

“When I thought of what the poor voters had to put up with in Bill Walker, I decided to have a go, although I support all-women shortlists.”

The two male candidates, Mr McInally and Mr Aitken, will be interviewed today by a panel of Labour’s executive in Stirling, before a decision is reached on the make-up of the shortlist.

All three of the female candidates were interviewed by party officials last weekend, when it was thought that an all-women shortlist would be adopted.

A Labour spokesman said that a decision was taken to open up the selection to males as well as females to ensure a “full and open” choice of candidates.

Former Dunfermline Athletic manager Jim Leishman this week decided against seeking the Labour nomination, after previously saying he was considering the move.