Zarah Sultana, one of the Labour Party’s community organisers, was selected on Thursday to replace retiring incumbent Jim Cunningham and fight Coventry South at the approaching election.
Born and bred in the West Midlands, from Birmingham, 26-year-old Sultana ran as a Labour candidate to represent the region in May’s European elections and works for the regional party.
As a Unite workplace rep considered to be on the Labour left, the successful candidate’s campaign was backed by Unite the Union, Momentum, the FBU, CWU and BFAWU.
LabourList understands that Sultana won 105 votes against her opponent Neeraj Patil, an A&E consultant from London and former Lambeth mayor, who secured 38 votes. 11 ballot papers were spoiled.
Thank you so much to Coventry South CLP for selecting me as your candidate in this general election.
I promise to give this campaign my absolute all and to fight for the socialist labour government working people in Coventry desperately need 🚩 pic.twitter.com/jPUcJ2UtbT
— Zarah Sultana (@zarahsultana) October 31, 2019
Jim Cunningham has served as the MP for 27 years, since 1992, and returned a majority of almost 8,000 votes in 2017. Although Labour has returned narrow majorities at times, the party has never lost the seat since its 1950 creation.
Coventry North West also has a retiring Labour MP, Geoffrey Robinson, and its local party will be choosing a parliamentary candidate on November 2nd. Both selection processes have been the subject of complaints by local members and Robinson.
The sitting MP submitted a formal complaint to Labour’s general secretary about the “shambolic and underhand nature” of the selection process in Coventry. Coventry South Labour members issued a statement titled ‘Stop the Stitch Up’.
A number of party members were disappointed by the exclusion of local councillors and local activists who had been expected to make the longlist, which was drawn up by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).