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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The NEC Moves In Mysterious Ways

Which seems like rather a strange thing for me to say, having written so extensively on the topic over the past year since I unsuccessfully stood for an NEC position myself and published my manifesto exactly a year ago today. Mind you, if you thought I could bore someone to death with my expositions and prognostications on the Labour NEC, you should try reading the endless drivel put out by my spoofster on the subject. Something like 70 separate articles in a single year! I think he's more obsessed with power in the Party than I am.

Anyway, the machinations of the Labour NEC should hardly be a mystery to someone as knowledgeable as myself, but I'm at a loss to understand the NEC's All Male Shortlist for the Ealing Southall by-election: Jo Sidhu and Virendra Sharma. Especially so as it was only back in March that the NEC Organisation Sub-committee voted to make the contest an All Women Shortlist. It's hard to understand what has happened between March and July that might have led to such a radical change. Before the Tories and LibDems start up with the cackling, I'm sure there is no connection whatsoever between this news and the revelation that Gordon's new Cabinet contains fewer women than sat in Tony's.

All this comes just 24 hours after my union backed Sonika "I am the front runner, definitely" Nirwal for the post. No wonder I'm confused. So what of the shortlisted candidates?

Jo Sidhu BA (Hons)(Oxon), MSc (LSE), CPE CoL (Lincoln's Inn), BVC ICSL (Hardwicke) is a barrister who specialises in representing defendants accused of serious breaches of national security, including espionage and terrorism. He has a special focus on cases involving extradition which give rise to serious human rights issues.

"I stop people disappearing"Two recent cases on his CV include the defence of Abdul Jalil et al. on charges associated with manufacture of a "dirty bomb" allegedly to be used for mass terrorist killing and the defence of Mouloud Bouhrama et al. on charges associated with the manufacture of Ricin, allegedly in preparation for mass terrorist killing.

Before anyone makes any fatuous comments, let me make clear that the presumption of innocence and provision of a comprehensive and professional defence for everyone, including alleged terrorists, is at the heart of what makes this country not only great but different from the United States, where suspects are simply thrown into Guantanamo Bay and forgotten. And, to show balance, different from former communist countries where suspects are secretly detained after flying in under extraordinary rendition from UK airports.

"I've disappeared"Virendra Sharma is a local Councillor of over 20 years' standing and former Mayor of Ealing. Until recently he was employed in managing day services, particularly for those with learning disabilities and was a director of a charity campaigning for equal rights and access for disabled people.

He was also a trustee of the national charity 2Care, which supports older people and people with mental health difficulties, a member of the Fabian Society and a member of the National Secular Society. I can only presume from his entry in the register of members' interests that he has now retired from all of these activities, as his entry shows that he also has no employment and no business interests, holds no management committee positions in any organisation and has no trades union membership.

This may seem strange to some people, but rest assured that quite a few members of my own Labour Group are in a similar position as can be seen from the register entries at the foot of my blog. So it's not at all unusual.

Whichever one gets it I shall be out canvassing for them this Sunday morning. Details of the campaign are here for those who want to help.

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