Bernie O’Neill, Chair of the FoD CLP, states: “I think it is important to put the record straight on the issue of the AWS, which the National party has decided we in the Forest of Dean must carry out for our next Parliamentary Candidate. Regional office state, “The Labour Party has a long held policy of supporting positive action to improve the gender balance of our candidates and elected representatives at every level. Also, whilst I understand there may be some local opposition, the decision to run Forest of Dean as an All Women Shortlist was made by the National Executive Committee, and their decision is final.
“Before Christmas we were informed that we were, as a CLP, to undertake consultation with members regarding whether we would support an AWS or Open selection. It was made very clear that the final decision would be for the National Party to make, and that the CLP would simply give guidance as to the views of its members. Branches were invited to consult their members and take their views forward to a General Committee meeting, which all members were also invited to attend. The timescale we were given for completing this was very short. At the GC, a very constructive discussion took place in which the views of branches and individuals were expressed. Views seemed evenly divided, and a vote was taken at the insistence of our regional representative which we were assured was indicative, not binding. The outcome of this vote was 12 to 11 in favour of AWS.
“Our Regional representative then composed a brief report of the meeting stating how the debate had been carried out and noting the views of delegates. This was forwarded to the National Executive Committee, who take all decisions relating to selections. This exercise was carried out in a number of other CLPs across the country who were eligible to open the selection process for PPC.
“We were informed on Friday of last week that we were to have an AWS. This is NOT a decision taken by the Constituency Party NOR by the Labour Group, NOR by me as Chair. This is the position that we now find ourselves in and are we are awaiting further information as to how we proceed.
“Personally, I am disappointed with this outcome as I have consistently spoken against AWS for more than 20 years, but I have been disappointed with a number of decisions taken by the Party in over 40 years membership. However I am still an active member, and shall continue to be so. I trust that those members who have expressed views complaining about AWS will seriously consider the fact that the most important thing is that we rally around our future candidate in order to de-seat Harper, to ensure a Labour MP, which the Forest so desperately needs.”