Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson says he wants to stand in the General Election in protest at the Labour party’s selection of candidate for the Liverpool Wavertree seat, Luciana Berger.
Actor and Liverpool comedy hero Tomlinson says the choice of London-born Luciana Berger “does not make sense to me” and hopes to be elected as a candidate in the constituency for the Socialist Labour Party later in the year.
Berger, 28, was chosen from an all-women shortlist to run for the seat held by Labour MP Jane Kennedy, who is stepping down after 17 years. However, some have accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of parachuting one of the party’s rising stars into the area ahead of the city’s own political talent.
Ms Berger, former director of Labour Friends of Israel, admitted last week that she could not say who Liverpool’s legendary manager Bill Shankly was, or who sang Ferry Across the Mersey.
She has faced further problems with the regional secretary of the public service sector union, UNISON, seeking information regarding Berger's relationship with Jane Kennedy, at whose home she stayed during the selection process.
The Labour party is said to be treating the letter from Frank Hont as a “request for feedback” and Berger told JMU Journalism: "No formal complaint has been made to the Labour party by anyone about the Wavertree Labour parliamentary selection."
Labour’s Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle has branded her a "student politician" and said she lacked the experience to do the job. If selected to run, Tomlinson has reportedly said his campaign slogan could be "Berger? My arse! " in homage to the catchphrase of his famed TV character Jim Royle.
“This woman that they have parachuted in from London could not even answer some easy questions about Liverpool,” Tomlinson told the Liverpool Echo. “It reminds me of when Labour parachuted Shaun Woodward into St Helens. People say if you want you could be letting the Tories in. But there is no difference between the Conservatives and New Labour.
“If I get nominated it would be an awful cut in wages. But I just think the state of British politics is abhorrent,” he said.
Tomlinson, 70, has lived in Liverpool most of his life and has a history of political activity. He was a former member of the National Front but later claimed he was "politically naive and poorly educated" at the time. Tomlinson was jailed for two years in 1973 after acting as a flying picket during the building strike when trade unionists confronted the Conservative government of the time. However, he has always protested his innocence.
He is an ardent trade unionist, a personal friend of the famous miners' strike leader, Arthur Scargill, and if selected he would stand for Scargill’s left-wing Socialist Labour Party.
Correction: February 13 2010
This article previously stated that UNISON had made an official complaint to the Labour party regarding Ms Berger's selection. Ms Berger contacted JMU Journalism to point out that no formal complaint had been made. Following further inquiries this article was amended to reflect this position.
By Hugh O'Connell, General Election Correspondent
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Ricky Tomlinson could oppose Labour's Luciana Berger, who did not know who Bill Shankly was