LabourList was sent the following shortlist by several sources. It includes just three candidates for Labour’s Poplar and Limehouse parliamentary selection race:
- Apsana Begum – Vice-chair of the local party, on London regional board and Momentum’s national coordinating group
- Amina Ali – Tower Hamlets councillor, Bow East ward, and council cabinet member
- Heather Peto – LGBT+ Labour co-chair and Progress activist who was on its NEC slate last year
One of these candidates will replace Jim Fitzpatrick, the sitting MP who is retiring. Although the London seat voted Remain in 2016, he has said he will vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal today.
A number of local members raised concerns when the longlist – drawn up by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) – was released, as Tower Hamlets councillor Rachel Blake had been excluded.
Many concluded that the selection was 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 supported candidate was Suzy Stride, an applicant brought up in Tower Hamlets on a council estate with experience of running as a parliamentary candidate. She is now also no longer in the running.
Stride issued a statement: “I am obviously really disappointed as I fought a good campaign, I feel I am a strong candidate and we had lots of support, including the backing of a major trade union GMB.”
The applicant added that she would “leave others to speculate” as to the reasons for which she, Rachel Blake, Asma Begum and Halima Begum were not on the shortlist and/or longlist.
LGBT+ activist Heather Peto is a Corbynsceptic, but local members who were supporting Blake or Stride have said they want to select a candidate who is a Labour member in Poplar and Limehouse.
LabourList understands that although Amina Ali is a Momentum member she is now likely to get support of members who claim there has been a “stitch up” in favour of Apsana Begum.
Begum was born and raised Tower Hamlets, and was until recently the CLP secretary. She is firmly on the Labour left and perceived to be the Labour leadership’s preferred candidate.
Critics have highlighted social media posts shared by Begum that talk of “Zionist masters” and “Zionist propaganda”. In response, the applicant said earlier this year: “The original poster used words that were inappropriate, and I wouldn’t use them myself. I’m committed to fighting antisemitism both inside the Labour Party and in wider society.”
Begum has been endorsed by Momentum as well as John McDonnell, who said the local candidate would be “a powerful voice for all communities in Westminster” as a “dedicated socialist… who has worked with integrity and diligence to build a grassroots Labour movement”.
Update, October 25th, 2.15pm: Heather Peto has withdrawn from the race because “such short selections are best fought between known local candidates”.