Multiple Labour parties across London have still not selected council candidates – despite facing local authority elections in less than four months’ time, LabourList can exclusively reveal.
According to reports from members across the capital, the processes to select candidates in boroughs including Labour-controlled Lewisham, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Brent and Southwark are delayed.
Members of London local campaign forums (LCFs) – committees tasked with planning and organising campaigns in each borough – have expressed concerns over the delay and its potential impact on their success in the local elections.
One organiser told LabourList: “Our opposition are out campaigning with candidates already in place for months – we don’t even know when our selections will begin. We are having to plan out literature to be sent out without knowing when we will have candidates to put in them.”
Several members have reported poor communication from Labour’s regional head office in London, which oversees local processes. One source in Southwark said the LCF received no answer for weeks from region when it asked them to approve the timetable proposed by the local party.
In the interim, Labour members were informed of a “cyber incident” on an unnamed third party that handles data on behalf of the party, which resulted in a “significant quantity of party data being rendered inaccessible on their systems”.
“If they’d have responded on time and we’d have been able to go ahead with the timetable they had, we’d have had all the data downloaded already,” the Labour source in Southwark said.
“No-one could predict the data breach but because of them dragging their feet it meant we had to push to a new timetable, which then wasn’t possible because of the breach.”
Southwark is a Labour-controlled authority, where the party currently holds 48 of the 63 positions on the council. The Lib Dems have 14 councillors on the south London council and one seat is held by an independent councillor.
“Some of the wards we’re trying to win from the Liberal Democrats, our main opposition in Southwark – we could essentially not win those seats now and may have done otherwise,” the source told LabourList.
“People aren’t talking about the fact that this is really going to have a big impact on – at least in London – our elections this year.”
Labour members in Lewisham received an email from their local party on Tuesday, which stated: “Party members still do not have access to Members Centre due to the data incident.
“We have contacted the central party a number of times via email and telephone and unfortunately as of yet we have not been given a timetable for when it will be available.
“We have asked escalated the issue within the party to assist, and we have asked the London regional executive committee to discuss the issue at next week’s meeting.”
As well as the cyber incident being a factor, some Labour activists have speculated that financial pressures may have impacted selections, including region processing appeals from candidates not given an interview by their LCF.
Labour offered voluntary redundancies to its staff last year in a cost-cutting exercise, and members have voiced concerns that the party in London has been left understaffed as a result.
Local authorities are currently transitioning to new ward boundaries, on which candidates will be seeking election in May, and organisers have stressed the difficulty of getting members out campaigning in “wards that do not yet exist”.
A Labour organiser told LabourList: “I have the upmost sympathy for those working at Southside who have been massively overstretched due to the voluntary redundancy scheme that this leadership has put in place.
“But we are at the risk of losing seats and failing to capitalise on Boris’ unpopularity to gain seats from the Tories. Unfortunately, if we do poorly in these seats in May, the fault will lie largely with the delays caused by the regional and national party.”
Approached for comment about the delay in selecting candidates across the city ahead of May 2022, a Labour spokesperson said: “We will have a full [slate] of candidates in London for the elections in May.”
More than 1,800 council seats across London’s 32 boroughs are up for grabs on May 5th. In 2018, the last time the council seats were contested, Labour won 1,123 from a total of 1,833 seats while the Conservatives won 511.
Addressing a Labour parliamentary party meeting on Monday, Keir Starmer said: “We have a serious and complicated electoral test in May. These are seats where the Tories had appalling results last time they were up.
“They are starting from a low baseline in many of the places up for grabs, and Labour is starting from a high one. The Tories have already begun telling people they will do disastrously – their usual naked expectation management. But we will fight these elections hard.”
Lord Hayward has said Boris Johnson should be “very concerned” about the upcoming elections, adding that the Tories “could control fewer London boroughs than they have at any point in the 50 years” of their existence.
The Tory peer and polling expert predicted that, based on current polling, Conservative-held Wandsworth is “almost certain” to go Labour and added that Tory-held Westminster Council could also be won by Labour in May.