Exeter Labour looks set to pick Steve Race as the party’s parliamentary candidate at the next general election after retiring incumbent Ben Bradshaw anointed his former assistant as his heir apparent in what has been a fairly safe Labour seat since the 1997 landslide.
Local party members will vote for one of a shortlist of four following a hustings on Saturday 16 July.
The shortlist was whittled down by the city’s local Labour branches from a longlist of six chosen by a panel of Labour National Executive Committee and South West Regional Executive Committee members. None of the panel were Exeter constituency party members.
It did not include Josie Parkhouse, who was elected to the city council in May, much to the dismay of many local party activists — apparently because she would have given Steve Race a run for his money from Labour’s green left.
As a result, diversity and inclusion trainer and ex-employment lawyer Helen Dallimore is the only shortlisted candidate who lives in Exeter, having moved back here ten years ago.
She’s also the only shortlisted candidate not to have previously stood in a parliamentary election.
Natasa Pantelic is currently a cabinet member on Slough Borough Council, where she has been a councillor for fourteen years. She polled just 1.6% of the vote to finish in fourth place in the 2021 Chesham and Amersham by-election.
Neil Guild is a civil engineer, union convenor and former soldier who lives near Taunton, where he came fourth for Labour in the 2015 general election.
And Steve Race, who we might call the continuity with change candidate, also came fourth for Labour in the 2015 general election in East Devon.
Does this hint at his views on electoral reform? Perhaps not: a common criticism of proportional representation is that it can undermine the geographical connection between constituencies and their representatives in parliament.