As with our studies of the likely next generation of Conservative MPs, nothing is certain – some standing in seats that are currently Labour-held may fail to hang onto them, while differential swings in the marginals will mean a mixture of success and failure.
However, we have to start somewhere, so here are the admittedly arbitrary rules I’ve followed to choose who to study. This article covers a total of 45 candidates, comprising those standing in seats being vacated by their current Labour incumbents and those fighting the 15 seats where other parties won by the slimmest majorities in 2010. Thirty-six Labour MPs are standing down, but thus far only 30 of those seats have selected their would-be successors.
So who are these front-runners for parliament? They’re a fascinating bunch – from the husband of the Danish Prime Minister to a regular speaker at Communist events right through to one who is awaiting trial for an assault allegedly committed at a count in the Scottish Referendum.
Twenty-nine (64 per cent) of them are women – in many places products of Labour’s use of All Women Shortlists. Notably, the proportion of female candidates is even higher in the seats the party currently holds (73 per cent). In the 15 top marginals, a slim outright majority of the candidates (8) are men. It seems Miliband has chosen to bank on the safest seats in order to deliver an improved gender balance in his parliamentary party.
Of those whose age is publicly available, they range from 27 (Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley) to 67 (Marie Rimmer, St Helens South & Whiston), with an average age of 44.
In terms of ethnicity, only four (8.8 per cent) are members of an ethnic minority. Of those four, only one (Tulip Siddiq) is a candidate in a Labour-held seat – and that’s in the hotly contested three-way marginal of Hampstead and Kilburn.
By profession, the candidates reflect the predominantly public sector trend we identified last week in the Shadow Cabinet. Several are full time councillors, cabinet members or council leaders. Seven are or have been parliamentary researchers. At least eight either are currently or have been employed as trade union officials. Five are think tankers or pressure group employees, three are journalists, two are NHS managers and one is a teacher. Only one that I can discern is an entrepreneur.
Notably, no less than a third of the candidates in the 15 top marginals are former MPs for their seat, defeated in 2010 and hoping to win it back this time.
On the note of Westminster re-treads, it’s informative to study quite how many of these potential MPs are to some degree political insiders. Thirty-two of them (71 per cent) have either worked for Labour MPs, served as MPs or MSPs themselves, advised ministers, worked as political campaigners or held senior roles in the Labour campaign machine. Among the likely next generation of Labour MPs, you are more likely to be a politico than a woman.
Even more staggering is the degree of trade union influence among this cohort. By my count, 40 of the 45 (88.8 per cent) personally represent a trade union in their day job, secured selection with a union’s backing and/or enjoy the support of unions in their subsequent campaigning. For the remaining five it should be noted there is an absence of evidence, not necessarily evidence of the unions’ absence. Overwhelmingly the trade union involved is Unite, though others enjoy the support variously of the GMB and USDAW.
As noted above, at least eight have directly worked for a union, but the biographies of the rest make it clear how essential union endorsement is to get ahead in Ed Miliband’s Labour Party. While Falkirk was in the headlines, the march of the union bosses was underway in scores of other seats.
The next generation
So there we have it – Labour, already dominated by the unions and overwhelmingly representing the public sector, is set to double down on both trends in 2015. While no party is immune from the charge that it is too representative of the Westminster Village, the staggering proportion of political insiders is unlikely to help Miliband in his quest to claim to represent ‘real people’. There are undoubtedly some political talents in the bunch, alongside the hard left ideologues and apparatchiks, but it’s hard to see how the next generation of Labour MPs will prove any more inspiring to a disillusioned electorate than the last.