Breaking news: Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford is to stand down at the next general election, he told Labour Party members at a meeting in Charlton tonight.
Raynsford, who will be 70 at the time of May 2015’s election, has represented the local area since 1992, when he was elected MP for the old Greenwich seat after beating incumbent Social Democrat Rosie Barnes by a slim majority. He also spent just over a year as MP for Fulham after winning a by-election there in 1986.
Since 1997 he has won Greenwich & Woolwich with comfortable five-figure majorities, and his decision is likely to spark a scramble among local Labour figures keen on almost-certain entry into parliament. The party may choose to go for an all-female shortlist, like neighbouring Lewisham Deptford.
Raynsford is known for his expertise in housing and construction – but criticised for his closeness to the construction industry, where he earns a sizeable income from other interests, including the chairmanship of Triathlon Homes, responsible for affordable housing in Stratford’s Olympic Park.
He has controversially backed the almost universally-unpopular Greenwich Market hotel development plans, since scrapped, as well as two schemes supported by Conservative mayor Boris Johnson: the Silvertown Tunnel and his idea for an airport in the Thames Estuary.
But he was also credited with helping bring Crossrail to Woolwich, as well as backing other regeneration schemes in the area. He’s recently laid into plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, as well as cuts to police and fire services.
As minister for London under Tony Blair, Raynsford was also instrumental in the creation of the capital’s mayoralty, and even put himself forward to be Labour’s candidate in the 2000 election. Former mayor Ken Livingstone has credited him for his work in getting the GLA’s City Hall HQ built in time and on budget.
Livingstone said in 2010 that Raynsford would have been “a much more effective cabinet Minister than many of those who were [appointed]. There’s clearly something wrong about Tony Blair that he didn’t recognise that.”
11pm update: Expect a flood of applicants to replace Nick Raynsford, all-woman shortlist or not. All-female shortlists are decided beyond local level, although local activists will have a say.
Outgoing Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts will be many people’s favourite. But he said last year he’d be “bored” as an MP, is believed to want to remain in the council cabinet, and he’s also unpopular with local party members. David Prescott, son of former deputy prime minister John, will be a front-runner, as will Greenwich West councillor Matt Pennycook. I mentioned Greenwich cabinet member Jackie Smith for the council leadership – would she fancy Westminster rather than Woolwich?
Whatever’s decided, expect a wide open field – if you can design websites, get friendly with Labour party members now. Some of them might want you to do a bit of work for them…
Friday 8.40am update: I’ve been I reminded of one person I missed out above… Len Duvall, current Greenwich and Lewisham London Assembly member, ex-Greenwich Council leader and Jackie Smith’s husband. If Duvall was to get it, it may prompt a by-election for his seat on City Hall, which he has held since 2000.
Friday 12.20pm update: Len Duvall has confirmed on Twitter he would put his name forward if the party did not go for an all-woman shortlist.