LABOUR members in Warrington North and South have been embroiled in a row – just five weeks before the General Election.

Labour’s Helen Jones will not be standing in the election on December 12 as she is retiring after 22 years as MP in Warrington North.

As reported on Friday, Labour members in Warrington North demanded that they get a say on who is selected as the party’s candidate in the constituency.

The party opted to have an all-women shortlist for the seat, with the candidate due to be confirmed this evening, Tuesday.

The candidate will be selected by a panel, rather than members, but the request for members to get a vote is believed to have been ‘carefully considered’ by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) after a motion on it was passed by Warrington North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) on Friday.

It came after deputy chair of Winwick Parish Council Mike Matthews, a former borough councillor, contacted senior figures on the NEC to make it clear that members in the area ‘deserve’ an all-member hustings and vote this week.

This afternoon, Tuesday, Mr Matthews said: “I was very pleased with the consideration and courtesy of the suggestion.”

The Warrington Guardian understands there has been interest in the position from Cllr Amanda King, deputy council leader Cllr Cathy Mitchell, north west MEP Theresa Griffin, Wigan councillor Nazia Rehman, St Helens councillor Jeanie Bell and NEC member Yasmine Dar.

The candidate is set to be announced this evening but it is understood Cllr Mitchell is among those to have missed out on the shortlist.

In a tweet on Sunday, Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, from Warrington South CLP, said: “I support the principal that #grassroots members in #WarringtonNorth should have their say.”

In reply, independent borough councillor Dan Price, who quit Labour earlier this year, tweeted: “This shouldn’t even need to be said…. That’s why this whole situation is such a farce!”

And members in Warrington North and South have clashed over the issue.

In e-mails seen by the Warrington Guardian, Cllr Rebecca Knowles, from Warrington South CLP, said it would be a ‘dreadful day’ for Labour Party democracy if members of Warrington North CLP are denied their ‘democratic right’ to have a final say on the candidate.

However, Cllr Morgan Tarr, from Warrington North CLP, said he does not believe Warrington North CLP ‘interfered’ or commented about a ‘lack of democracy’ when Faisal Rashid was selected by a panel for the 2017 snap election.

He also stated he thinks the ‘same should be expected’ now Warrington North CLP is in the same position.

But Cllr Knowles, a Warrington Borough Council (WBC) cabinet member, said the selection of a candidate in what was at that stage an ‘unwinnable seat’ was ‘entirely different’ to the current scenario.

Cllr Tarr said it is ‘not different at all’ and labelled the complaints over a ‘lack of democracy’ as ‘laughable’.

He also said being elected to WBC ‘does not give you the right to interfere in the CLP of which you are not a member’ – and that ‘attempting to meddle in constituencies other than your own is hardly keeping with the friendly spirit you are apparently so keen to encourage’.

Cllr McLaughlin then told Cllr Tarr many Labour politicians ‘up and down the country’ know of the ‘difficulties we have had in bringing our two MPs together’ to work for a common cause in Warrington.

Cllr McLaughlin, who is also a council cabinet member, said ‘it goes right back to 1997’ and is ‘not the norm’ in other areas.

The Warrington North constituency was also highlighted during Monday’s full council meeting by Cllr Price, who emphasised he is a ‘huge advocate’ of devolution.

In a question to council leader Cllr Russ Bowden, he added: “Does he agree with me, though, that for devolution to work we have to have stakeholders in this town working together in a collaborative way?

“And I hope that the announcement from the MP in the north means that moving forward this council can have a very positive relationship to whomever is placed to be the representative in that seat.”

In response, Cllr Bowden did not specifically refer to Warrington North but confirmed he spoke to Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry about devolution last week.

Cllr Bowden told members the Government is ‘looking to reopen discussions around devolution’ and there is a ‘renewed and refreshed appetite’ over devolution for Cheshire and Warrington.