Update, July 24th: Tower Hamlets councillor Rachel Blake has been selected as the Labour candidate for Cities of London and Westminster.
In the wake of Labour winning Westminster council from the Tories for first time since its creation in 1964, the contest for Cities of London and Westminster constituency has become all the more interesting. Incumbent Conservative MP Nickie Aiken was first elected in 2019 with a majority of 3,953, with Labour candidate Gordon Nardell coming in third.
Though consistently a Tory seat, the party’s majority in Two Cities has shrunk quite significantly in recent years, having been more than 11,000 in 2010. Labour also usually takes second place in the constituency – only being pushed into third in 2019 by former Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna standing as a Lib Dem – suggesting Labour could be the party best placed to take the seat off the Tories.
Two Cities was announced as one of a second tranche of 21 seats in which the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) was allowed by the central party to get started on its selection process early. A shortlist has now been finalised and hustings are scheduled for July 23rd – after which local members will vote for who they want to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate.
Liza Begum has made it on to the shortlist. Begum is a councillor on Westminster council, representing Pimlico South ward, and is currently serving as cabinet member for housing services. She was born and raised in the Two Cities seat and got into politics when she led a campaign against the Grosvenor Group’s plans to redevelop the council estate where she grew up. She has held various roles within the local party, including vice chair of campaigns and fundraising officer. Outside politics, she has worked within the NHS and more recently for a local charity in Westminster supporting women back into work.
Next on the list is Rachel Blake. Blake has been a councillor in Tower Hamlets since 2014, representing Bow East ward. She served as a cabinet member on the council for seven years and previously held the role of deputy mayor. She is currently vice-chair of the Labour Housing Group. She was a policy advisor in the Treasury under Gordon Brown and has worked for various local authorities including the City of London Corporation.
Deeba Syed is the final candidate on the shortlist. Syed is an employment rights lawyer with women’s charity Rights of Women. She was born and grew up in the Two Cities constituency. She is a member of the Society of Labour Lawyers executive committee and, in that role, advises MPs on employment law and how to combat violence against women and girls. She has held various roles within local Labour politics including women’s officer and serving on her local campaign forum. She is also a board member of the grassroots campaign to end public sexual harassment, Our Streets Now.