Crawley Labour party met tonight to select its candidate for the general election and at the end of a long evening selected Chris Oxlade to step into Laura Moffatt’s shoes.It was great evening, with five very good candidates to choose from.Â Proceedings were necessarily drawn out because everything had to be done exactly by the book and seen to be done exactly by the book because there is no time to do it all over again.Â So we had to show our membership cards, get looked up on the membership lists, crossed off lists, sign forms and all sorts of stuff.
Being early arrivals meant that we then had lots of time to mingle and gossip while everyone else queued to sign in.
Turnout was very good, especially for such a short-notice event, with 135 ballot papers issued, which went up to 136 when somebody noticed that Chris Oxlade had not been counted himself.Â There were so many people there who I had not seen for ages like Doug Murdoch,Â Mohammed Qamarudin or Robbie Sharma, but also people that I knew but didn’t realise were members of the party.Â I can’t remember the last time we had so many members of the CLP together in one room – possibly the post-election party in 1997.
There was also the pleasant surprise of meeting a member who turns out to be a regular follower of these very pages.Â As if that is not evidence enough of his good taste, he is also a Gang of Four fan who went to see their concert last year – the one I was sorely tempted to go to.
As I expected, all the speeches were good, but in different ways.Â Colin Lloyd displayed his experience and deep understanding of issues, Sonia Sodha showed enormous enthusiasm and gave very polished answers to questions, Ian Irvine made an excellent rabble-rousing speech, Raj Chandrarana also displayed great experience and good humour, and Chris Oxlade made a passionate speech explaining his commitment to the town.
Also as expected, my pleasure at having a new candidate is tarnished by thinking about the four who didn’t win – but that was going to be the case whatever the result.Â It is a bit like bit in Bullseye when you find out what you could have won.
When I was looking at the candidate CVs with colleagues in Horsham the other night, somebody made a very telling comment.Â She pointed at Chris Oxlade and said “that is another Laura Moffatt”.Â Â She was not referring to his opinions, personality or abilities but to the fact that he is shares the background of being 100% local, 100% commited to the town and totally passionate about the town.Â Like Laura, I think he does not just want to be an MP, he wants to be the MP for Crawley and would not consider standing anywhere else.
Sonia was a very impressive candidate.Â Given a slightly longer time to talk to members and canvass them I reckon she could even have won, which shows you how good she is, given the traditional insularity of Crawley people generally and Crawley CLP in particular – but I think we all know that she will try for somewhere else, and will probably get selected somewhere else.Â Given her extreme youth I think the extra experience she gets between now and then will make her even more formidable.Â I hope she does succeed in the next round of selections.
I think Crawley CLP made the right choice in the end and have a candidate who will have the energy needed to lead the campaign in a few short but busy weeks.Â I bet he will be out knocking on doors tomorrow morning – but not too early: we didn’t leave the meeting until 10:45pm and he was still there thanking everybody.