The Labour Party has been urged to halt the trigger ballot process for Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum following allegations of intimidation and harassment.
Local parties are currently progressing trigger ballot processes, whereby local party and affiliate branches vote on whether they would like to undergo a full process to select their candidate to contest the seat at the next general election.
A full selection process will take place where more than 50% of both affiliate and local party branches vote for one. LabourList understands members have voted for a full selection in five of six meetings of party branches. One declared a tied result.
Three complaints sent to the regional party headquarters from local members in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in east London, seen by LabourList, raise concerns over the way some members have behaved at meetings in which a vote is held.
One complaint alleged that a group of group of members had disrupted the vote in Lansbury and Poplar branch and attempted to stop the distribution of the chief whip’s report on the MP and a statement from Begum. Another raised concerns of intimidation and harassment towards women throughout the process.
A Labour Party spokesperson told LabourList: “All complaints received by the party are taken seriously.” LabourList understands a small number of complaints have been received relating to meetings and are being assessed and that investigations are initiated where the party feels there are reasonable grounds to do so.
In a response to one of the complaints from local members, on June 8th, the governance and legal unit at the party told the complainant that the concerns did not fall within what the party can investigate under Labour’s complaints policy.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward tweeted: “I am very concerned about the allegations of threatening behaviour, harassment and misogyny in the reselection of [Begum]. Whether it’s on a picket line or in parliament, Apsana has always stood up for working people and the trade union movement. She has my full support.”
MPs have also raised concerns. John McDonnell said there are “allegations of harassment and threatening behaviour, involving sexism and misogyny” to “undermine Apsana’s position”, adding that he had urged the party to intervene.
Brent Central MP Dawn Butler also took to social media, tweeting: “I’m a feminist and as such I have a responsibility to help all women. This whole process has made the first hijab wearing MP ill. We have a responsibility to protect her.”
Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid tweeted earlier this week: “Solidarity with [Begum]. All parties need to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are not exposed to further harrassment in their roles, and understand the impact that ongoing abuse can have. Violence against women must always be taken seriously.”
The Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse is a survivor of domestic abuse. She told a court last year – before she was acquitted of three counts of housing fraud – that her ex-husband had been “controlling and coercive”.
A member of the local party executive told LabourList that “all procedures have been followed in accordance with the [national executive committee] procedural guidelines” with “the close supervision of the regional party”.
They said the executive takes allegations of wrongdoing “seriously” and stated that no branch meeting had “any concerns of wrongdoing raised at the time with the executive committee member nominated to oversee the proceedings”.