Labour members accuse party of “stitching up” MP selections

Sienna Rodgers

Labour members in seats where parliamentary selections are taking place have accused the party of “stitching up” the process by leaving off local favourites.

The party’s national executive committee (NEC) has taken control of longlisting – the first stage of selections – in Labour-held seats.

It will also have partial control over the next stage, shortlisting, to be undertaken by mixed panels that will include NEC, regional board and local party representatives.

For the Ealing North selection, LabourList has been sent the following longlist by local sources:

  • James Murray – deputy mayor of London for housing
  • Julian Bell – Ealing council leader, who doesn’t live in the constituency
  • Sitarah Anjum – Ealing North councillor
  • Rajesh Agrawal – deputy mayor of London for business
  • Parmjit Dhanda – former Labour MP for Gloucester (2001-2010), brought up in Southall
  • Rakhia Ismail – Islington councillor and current mayor
  • Vincent Lo – Brent councillor and Labour’s 2017 candidate in Uxbridge
  • Aysha Raza – Ealing North councillor

This longlist has not been officially verified by the Labour Party, which does not give information about longlisted candidates, but was sent to LabourList by multiple sources.

Local councillors Lewis Cox, Bassam Mahfouz and Chris Summers all appear to have been left off the Ealing North longlist. Mahfouz has long been expected to represent the seat once Steve Pound stood down, and was the incumbent MP’s preferred successor.

Mahfouz told LabourList: “I’m so proud of the strong grassroots campaign that I have led throughout this selection campaign, bringing on board the support of the current MP, the majority of councillors in the constituency, party members from across our party.

“I would have loved to have been able to to put forward my successful track record of delivery, in the community I’ve lived in for the past 35 years, to local party members, as the best candidate to represent it in parliament.

“Given the levels of local support I’ve been honoured to so far have secured in the selection, I don’t believe this selection will be a genuine People’s Vote, given the exclusion of myself and several other local candidates from the longlist published tonight. I am sad and disappointed by this.”

Members on the Labour left are particularly disappointed by the omission of  Cox, the co-founder of Ealing Labour for Corbyn, and Summers, who stood as Labour’s candidate for Uxbridge in 2015.

Several local sources have told LabourList that they consider the outcome of the NEC longlisting by the NEC to be a “blatant stitch-up” and a “scandal” – a view that is shared by members across factions.

It is widely thought that the selection is being steered towards a win for James Murray, a former Islington councillor who is now London’s deputy mayor for housing.

One NEC member – who was not on the longlisting panel for the seat – commented that it is “disgraceful if they are stitching up such a diverse seat for a middle-class white man”.

Liverpool West Derby‘s selection also produced a longlist that has angered local members, due to the exclusion of councillor Nick Crofts – who was backed by GMB, TSSA, ASLEF, Usdaw and the Co-operative Party.

LabourList has been sent the following longlist by a reliable source:

  • Barry Kushner – Liverpool councillor, council cabinet member
  • Olwen Hamer – Works for a homelessness organisation
  • Ian Byrne – Liverpool councillor, Dan Carden MP’s office manager
  • Angela Coleman – Liverpool councillor, former nurse
  • Troy Gallagher – Islington councillor
  • Mandy Clare – Cheshire West councillor
  • Miro Griffiths – disabled activist on the Wirral
  • Emily Brothers – Labour’s 2015 candidate in Sutton and Cheam
  • Joe Taylor

Over 100 members have written to the party about Crofts being ousted from the race, noting that the councillor is “in the heart of the constituency”. Their letter concludes: “The exclusion of such a capable local activist is nothing short of an outrage.” It calls on the NEC to “revisit this incomplete longlist”.

Ian Byrne is thought to have influential friends in Dan Carden and Karie Murphy, who are both supportive of his bid, but Unite the Union has not officially endorsed him nor anyone else. Momentum has not put out an official endorsement either.

For the Poplar and Limehouse selection, where members are set to replace Jim Fitzpatrick, LabourList has been sent the following longlist by a well-placed source:

  • Heather Peto – LGBT+ Labour co-chair and Progress activist on last year’s NEC slate
  • Apsana Begum – Local party vice-chair and member of Momentum’s national coordinating group
  • Charlotte Norton – Young Fabians chair and local party women’s officer
  • Asma Begum – Tower Hamlets councillor
  • Suzy Stride – Labour’s 2015 candidate in Harlow
  • Amina Ali – Tower Hamlets councillor and Momentum member

Local members are frustrated about the exclusion of Rachel Blake, a Tower Hamlets councillor and deputy mayor for planning and air quality, from the longlist.

Blake was thought locally to have a strong campaigning record on issues such as scrapping Universal Credit, and she was the applicant overwhelmingly favoured by Corbynsceptics – while also having secured support from the left.

A number of Poplar and Limehouse members have concluded that the selection is being “stitched up” for Apsana Begum, who is the applicant most supported by the Labour left as a high-profile Momentum activist.

The other most strongly Corbynsceptic-backed candidate is Suzy Stride, who was brought up in Tower Hamlets on a council estate and has experience of running as a parliamentary candidate.

One insider said: “I think they’ll knock out Suzy in the shortlisting to make sure she’s not a threat – it’s all being tied up for Apsana.” The next stage of the process is due to take place on Friday.

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