GMB’s Sarah Owen picked as Labour’s Luton North candidate

Trade unionist Sarah Owen has been selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Luton North, replacing suspended and retiring MP Kelvin Hopkins, LabourList can exclusively reveal.

The GMB political officer and member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) is also chair of Chinese for Labour – and would be the first Labour MP of East Asian origin if elected.

Labour’s Friends Groups – including Chinese for Labour’s Sonny Leong – had raised concerns with the party leadership earlier this week about the lack of “communities loyal to Labour” that they said Labour were “still failing”.

The result in Luton North will improve the level of BAME representation among Labour parliamentary candidates – and likely the parliamentary party, as Owen is expected to win.

Owen has significant experience of the public sector, having previously worked as a care worker, in local government and for the London Fire Brigade.

Luton North’s new candidate has also stood for parliament before, having been selected for Hastings and Rye in 2011 to challenge incumbent Amber Rudd ahead of the 2015 general election.

The infamous EdStone – the large stone tablet commissioned by Labour during the 2015 election campaign – was unveiled by then-leader Ed Miliband in Rudd’s Hastings constituency.

Kelvin Hopkins, who is currently suspended from the Labour Party pending investigation of sexual harassment claims, announced plans to stand down as an MP last week.

Labour’s ruling NEC had not been expected to endorse Hopkins as a Labour candidate, just as it is expected not to endorse suspended MPs Chris Williamson and Stephen Hepburn at the meeting on Wednesday.

In 2017, Hopkins secured a majority of 14,364 votes. The constituency has been won by the Labour Party at every election since 1997, before which it was Conservative-held.

Rachel Hopkins, a local councillor on the Labour left and the daughter of Kelvin Hopkins, has been selected as Labour’s candidate in the neighbouring seat of Luton South.

Both selections were conducted via a longlist drawn up by Labour’s NEC, followed by interviews and a final decision undertaken by a mixed selection panel with local, regional and national representatives.

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