Labour yet to pick candidates for approaching London Assembly elections

Elliot Chappell

There are just two months until the pre-election period for the London Assembly election begins and campaigning officially starts, but Labour is yet to select its candidates.

The selections to decide who would contest each constituency and London-wide seat began last year, with interviews taking place in October.

Shortlists had been drawn up by the national executive committee (NEC), and members were then going to choose between these contenders to decide who would stand for Labour in their seat.

To get on the lists, London-wide applicants had to get five constituency parties or affiliate nominations, while specific seat candidates had to be endorsed by three CLPs or five affiliates.

But with the snap general election on December 12th, and the ensuing leader and deputy leadership contests, the process was interrupted and the original timetable abandoned.

The general election also meant that two of the candidates on the initial shortlists have now been elected as MPs, prompting the reopening of their lists.

One of these seats was Lambeth and Southwark, who had reselected incumbent Florence Eshalomi to stand, but she’s now been elected as the MP for Vauxhall.

The other shortlisted candidate was Islington councillor Claudia Webbe. She was in the running for the North East seat – comprised of Waltham Forest, Islington and Hackney boroughs – but is now the MP for Leicester East. As the list only included her and one other person, the party had to reopen the shortlisting.

Earlier this month, the Labour Party emailed members to invite applications for the two London AM seats, and the NEC has now selected new candidates for the shortlists.

Lambeth and Southwark

The new slate of candidates for the south London seat includes Sakina Sheikh, who made the shortlist in the Lewisham East selection. She’s been endorsed by John McDonnell, Faiza Shaheen and Owen Jones.

Others on the list are Taranjit Chana, Bromley councillor Marina Ahmed, Wandsworth councillor Maurice McLeod, and Bermondsey and Southwark activist Shahina Jaffer.

The NEC has been criticised for the absence of any local councillors; 90 councillors from the Southwark and Lambeth local authorities signed a letter to the party’s ruling body calling for a rerun of the process.

In a piece for the Evening Standard, Jack Hopkins and Peter John – the local council leaders – said that the party’s ruling body had made a “shocking” panel selection “behind closed doors”.

North East

Hackney councillor and mayoral advisor on private renting and affordable housing Sem Moema has regained a place on the list, having been on the original against Webbe.

Haringey councillor and cabinet member for housing Emina Ibrahim also made the shortlist in north London, along with Islington councillor Sara Hyde who works in the criminal justice system, primarily with women, and was a London Assembly candidate in 2016.

There are now three candidates on the final shortlist that members will vote on to decide who will be Labour’s candidate for the North East in May.

Next steps for the selection contest

Candidates across the capital are now awaiting membership lists from Labour’s regional office in London, at which point they can start canvassing members. These are expected in the next few days.

There seems to be some confusion about the voting system that will be used in the contest. It has previously been a preferential voting system, in which members rank the contenders in order of preference, in much the same way they will vote in the leadership and deputy contests.

However, councillor Anne Clarke – who is standing for the Barnet and Camden seat – told LabourList that candidates have not been informed of the format or the system.

When Clarke asked in her initial interview in October 2019, she said the panel told her: “We haven’t decided yet but we’ll let you know.” And she tells us she received no response to subsequent emails.

LabourList has contacted Labour’s regional office for comment but they have declined to give one.

The voting system has significant implications for those standing in seats with more than two people on the slate of candidates, and will inform key decisions on campaigning. In selections with two candidates that come from similar wings of the party, for example, it could affect their decision on whether or not to stand.

The mayoral and AM elections take place on May 7th this year. Labour’s Sadiq Khan is standing against Tory Shaun Bailey, Lib Dem Siobhan Benita, and ex-Conservative MP Rory Stewart who is standing as an independent.

Commenting on the election, the Labour mayor said: “The election on May 7th is a two-horse race between me and the Tory candidate.”

Khan recently made a key election pledge to introduce a green new deal for London and make the city carbon neutral by 2030, if re-elected in May.

Everything Labour.
Every weekday morning.

By clicking ‘subscribe’ you confirm you have read and agree to our privacy policy

More from LabourList