Lord Smith: 'I'll quit' if non-local candidate is parachuted in

Wigan Council leader Lord Smith
Wigan Council leader Lord Smith

Council leader Lord Smith has said he will stand down as a Labour constituency chair if a non-local candidate is parachuted in to a borough seat.

Following reports Jeremy Corbyn's office is preparing to select ally Katy Clark to stand in the Leigh seat vacated by Andy Burnham, Lord Smith has warned there would be a "huge backlash".

Ms Clark, a former MP who lost her North Ayrshire and Arran seat in 2015, is said to be vying with local favourite and Wigan Council cabinet member Coun Jo Platt.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, the veteran council leader said: "If this woman gets the job the first thing I’ll do is resign as constituency chair. I won’t be able to work with her."

Earlier this week he had tweeted: "Even Tories are letting local party members decide on who they want as their MP. Why is Labour's NEC not giving Leigh members same chance?"

His comments follow a similar warning from outgoing MP Andy Burnham, who is standing to become Greater Manchester mayor, suggesting senior Labour figures are concerned about the will of local members being by-passed by the National Executive Committee.

In a letter to the NEC, Mr Burnham said: “Were the Party to opt for a candidate with no local ties, I have to make clear that this would not be supported by the vast majority of our members and would go down very badly with the Leigh public.

“This would run the risk of losing significant support at the election and it is why it is my strong advice that this course should not be followed.”

It is understood the NEC will make its decision on Friday.