An email sent by a senior official at Unite shows the union intervened to ensure a candidate for a marginal seat was shortlisted against the wishes of local members.
The local party’s selection panel did not shortlist Hedges, who is a member of Unite’s NEC.
In the email, Kennedy told the Labour Party official that the panel had not taken into account the fact that Hedges was backed by several unions. Unite was one of the unions that endorsed him.
Hedges was subsequently placed on the shortlist.
Senior party sources claim that Kennedy called a meeting of an NEC sub-committee in a successful bid to reverse the decision to exclude Hedges.
Six members of Watford’s selection panel have written to the NEC to express outrage over the party’s decisions to overrule their decision.
In the strongly-worded letter, they say the inclusion of Hedges undermines party democracy and plead with the NEC to reverse what they describe as the ‘unilateral imposition of a candidate’.
They insist they were told by party officials, including an NEC representative who attended the meeting, that any candidate with union backing should be considered but that this did not mean they should be automatically shortlisted.
Kennedy argues in his email that the fact Hedges has union backing means he should have made the shortlist.
He also says that Vaughan West, a GMB organiser who represented the NEC at the selection meeting, had told him that supporting nominations from affiliated unions were not fully considered.
West used to be the secretary of the GMB’s Islington branch in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency.
The Watford panel insist they carried out the selection process fairly and that all candidates confirmed they were happy with the way it was conducted.
Party sources say Hedges – who is from Islington – didn’t make the cut for the simple reason that other candidates scored more highly in the interview process.
The subsequent intervention by a Unite official will provoke controversy because the Labour leadership has repeatedly stressed that local parties and local members should have a greater say over how the party is run.