On Friday, I signed off the email with news of an upcoming parliamentary selection that would offer us a result over the weekend at a time when all others are paused. That didn’t quite work out. The Ilford South selection, which was supposed to conclude on Saturday with likely either TSSA’s Sam Tarry or Corbynsceptic-backed Jas Athwal chosen by local members to replace Mike Gapes, will now be rerun after the latter contender was suspended from the party. The decision to suspend was taken by a panel that deals with sexual harassment complaints, as LabourList revealed, and the case concerns “extremely serious allegations” according to Labour sources. Athwal says he has provided proof to the party that the claims are untrue.
Both before and after the cause of the suspension was revealed, many Athwal supporters felt that the timing was suspicious (though ultimately the vote did not go ahead). It is understood that the night before the final selection vote was Labour’s first opportunity to consider the case because it required an independent investigator’s report, a barrister to advise and available national executive committee (NEC) members. But the level of mistrust within the party couldn’t be higher and it was branded a “stitch up” by Wes Streeting among others. Read the full story here.
Athwal wasn’t the only high-profile figure to be suspended that day pending investigation of a disciplinary case related to sexual harassment: the same applied to ‘Red Rev’ Steven Saxby, already selected for the key marginal seat of The Cities of London and Westmister. As a result, he is no longer Labour’s candidate. Saxby strongly refutes the complaint. Read the full story here. These weekend events have raised tensions in Labour around the speed and independence of disciplinary processes, the lack of BAME candidates selected, the preponderance of sexual harassment cases and more.
Away from Labour-centric news, the focus is on the Jennifer Arcuri row and on Brexit. We’ll know by the end of the week whether the EU thinks a deal is possible, Emmanuel Macron has said. The initial reaction from Leo Varadkar in particular would suggest that the chances of securing one are slim, primarily due to Good Friday Agreement concerns. In that case, the judiciary are likely to feature heavily, and we’re already expecting a ruling from Edinburgh this morning on whether there can be a court order instructing Boris Johnson to request a Brexit delay (fortifying the Benn Act). No doubt this Downing Street operation will relish the opportunity to have the Prime Minister be Brexit-defiant against the ‘enemies of the people’.
Jeremy Corbyn will host a meeting of opposition party leaders today where they are expecting to scrutinise the government’s Brexit offer together. Discussion could also cover the perpetually agonising issue of a no-confidence vote and the ensuing need to establish a so-called ‘government of national unity’. John McDonnell told la Repubblica over the weekend that Labour will “never accept an interim government without Jeremy Corbyn as PM”. Any other solution “wouldn’t work and it won’t have the support of Labour MPs”, the Shadow Chancellor said – and Lib Dems would be to blame for no deal unless they agree. Things are going to be moving fast over the next few weeks. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.