Falkirk: Labour’s faces for candidate emerge

The shortlist is likely to include Pam Duncan, councillor Linda Gow, constituency staffer Monica Lennon and ex-MSP Karen Whitefield. Picture: Contributed
The shortlist is likely to include Pam Duncan, councillor Linda Gow, constituency staffer Monica Lennon and ex-MSP Karen Whitefield. Picture: Contributed
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A DISABILITY rights activist, an aide to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s energy spokesman, a former council boss and an ex-MSP are all in the frame to be Labour’s candidate in Falkirk.

With Labour’s deadline for nomination days away, Scotland on Sunday can reveal the names of those in line to be selected as a candidate in one of the party’s safest Scottish seats at Westminster.

Pam Duncan, a policy officer for disabled people’s charity Inclusion Scotland, is widely tipped to be the frontrunner in Labour’s selection battle for Falkirk West.

Duncan is aiming to be only the second permanent wheelchair user to be elected to the Commons. Anne Begg was the first when she took Aberdeen South for Labour in 1997.

She is likely to face a strong challenge from former Falkirk council leader Linda Gow, who was the main opponent of the union Unite’s favoured candidate Karie Murphy during the initial selection.

Gow has spoken publicly on behalf of the complainants who triggered Labour’s inquiry into allegations that Unite packed the local party and signed up members without their knowledge to deliver a victory for Murphy.

Monica Lennon, who works in the constituency office of shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex, and former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield have also put their names forward ahead of this Thursday’s nominations deadline.

A selection panel made up of Labour officials will interview potential candidates on 26 November, before a final shortlist is drawn up to go before party members in Falkirk West.

Other members are expected to put their names forward before Thursday, although Duncan, Gow, Lennon and Whitefield – none of whom are in Unite – are thought to be the names in the frame for the all-women shortlist.

Duncan, who was praised in a recent speech by Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran as an “outstanding young disability campaigner” is almost certain to be on the shortlist that members will be asked to chose their candidate from on 8 December.

Her campaign platform of “a fresh start for Falkirk” is likely to be well received by the Labour leadership following the row that saw Murphy and constituency party chairman Stephen Deans suspended from membership.

Duncan, who is a member of public sector union Unison, said: “As a disabled person, I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve got and have been at the sharp end of the Tory government’s welfare reform.

“We need to move on from what’s happened in Falkirk and campaign against the way ordinary people have basically had their rights stripped through policies such as the bedroom tax.

“There has to be a fresh start for Labour in Falkirk and we need someone who has a campaigning background.”

Gow has the backing of Unison and the Co-operative Party and serves as a Labour councillor in Falkirk.

She admits Labour in Falkirk has been damaged by the chain of events that started with the conviction of constituency MP Eric Joyce for assaulting Tory politicians in a Westminster bar last year.

However, the former council boss insists Labour could still recover from the row that has left the constituency party placed in “special measures” with party officials managing the selection process.

She said: “I’m sorry about the negative issues that we’ve had and it may have an impact on who people chose to vote for. But we can move on if we get the right candidate in place, regardless which one of us it is.

“We have to give people a positive reason to vote Labour and we’ve got to campaign on issues like child poverty and set out how a Labour government will tackle this.”

Whitefield, who was the Labour MSP for Airdrie and Shotts until her defeat at the 2011 Holyrood election, has also confirmed her potential candidacy in Falkirk West.

She said: “I’ve put my name forward. This is a matter for Labour Party members in Falkirk.”

The former MSP, who works for the shopworkers’ union Usdaw, refused to discuss issues related to Labour in Falkirk.

Lennon, a South Lanarkshire Labour councillor and GMB union member, also declined to comment on her nomination.