Ibrahim Dogus has been chosen by the Labour Party to replace retiring deputy leader Tom Watson as its candidate in the West Midlands seat of West Bromwich East, LabourList can reveal.
The entrepreneur and Lambeth mayor, who founded CEFTUS, SME4Labour and the British Kebab Awards, is not associated with one particular faction but is well-liked by key figures at the top of the party.
Commenting on his selection, Dogus told LabourList: “Proud to have been selected as the candidate for West Bromwich East and am wasting no time at all taking the fight to the Tories.
“I’d like to pay a huge tribute to Tom Watson who served the people of the West Bromwich East constituency so diligently. I am proud to call him a friend, and recognise I have big shoes to fill as the Labour candidate.
“I have already started work alongside members of the CLP to campaign for Labour in West Bromwich East. I am keen to explain Labour’s plans to create more jobs, to revive manufacturing and engineering skills, to rebuild our NHS, to put more police on the streets and estates, to deliver more childcare, to invest in our schools, and to tackle climate change.
“I am looking forward to meeting local people and listening to their concerns. I know what it’s like to live in temporary accommodation, to work long hours, and to face barriers. I relish the chance to fight for local people, to champion communities and businesses, and to deliver the decent services people round here deserve.”
Dogus recently ran for selection to replace Kate Hoey in Vauxhall, where he currently lives, and did not succeed – but he received formal endorsements from Unite, GMB, BFAWU, CWU and USDAW.
He was chosen for West Bromwich East via new emergency selection procedures rather than a vote by local members at a hustings. Panels making last-minute selection decisions are supposed to comprise two national executive committee members, the chair of the regional board and a local party representative.
But LabourList understands that the chair of the regional executive committee, the GMB’s Joe Morgan, recused himself from the selection panel after raising concerns about it being all-male despite selection guidance stating that at least one NEC representative should be a woman.
It is understood that the make-up of the panel was then changed, following the complaint, and one of male NEC representatives was swapped out for a woman. The process would have risked being invalid if the party had not made the change.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson announced this week, on the first day of the official general election campaign, that he would be stepping down from his post and retiring as an MP on December 12th due to “personal, not political” reasons.
His West Midlands seat has been Labour since its creation in 1974, and Watson won it at the last election with a majority of 7,713 votes. Although it could be strictly considered a safe seat, it isn’t thought of as one and voted by 68% for Leave in 2016.
Like Watson, newly selected Dogus is a Remainer. He hit headlines in London at the start of the year when he added pro-immigration, anti-Brexit messages to receipts from one of his restaurants and said he received death threats as a result.
George Galloway – once a Labour MP before leading the Respect Party – is running as an Independent in the West Midlands seat. He has said he is standing on a pro-Corbyn and pro-Brexit platform.