Shortlist of three revealed in Kensington after selection committee dissolved

Katie Neame

A shortlist of three names has been revealed in the process to be the next Labour candidate for Kensington after the selection committee was dissolved in what has been described as an “unashamed manipulation of democracy”.

Certain members of the selection committee of local Labour Party members were informed on Thursday evening that the committee was being dissolved, half an hour before the shortlisting meeting was due to take place, LabourList understands.

An email, seen by LabourList, was sent to members of the committee, which raised “serious concerns” about the selection process and informed members that they had been “relieved” of their duties with “immediate effect”.

The email said London region had had to commence a “serious investigation” into antisemitism during the process and suspend members “due to antisemitism”.

It claimed that committee members had had to be removed because of leaks and that the procedural secretary and other members had had to be removed for “openly supporting” candidates.

It added that one branch meeting had had to be rescheduled because the Kensington Constituency Labour Party (CLP) “did not organise to accommodate large swathes of its membership”.

The email continued: “I believe this is a case where few have scuppered the chances of the rest of the committee taking part. I’m certain not everyone had a part to play in these mishaps.

“Regardless of whether these incidents are due to lack of organisation or a blatant attempt to undermine the process, moving forward the selection committee is dissolved and all of you have been relieved of your duties with immediate effect.”

The Labour Party confirmed to LabourList that the selection committee was dissolved. LabourList understands a shortlist of three was finalised by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC): Hackney councillor Mete Coban, former policy aide to Gordon Brown Afsana Lachaux and local campaigner Joe Powell.

A Kensington Labour Party source said the incident was an “unashamed manipulation of democracy”, adding: “Everyone on the CLP executive is united that this is an undemocratic and mischievous way of running an election.”

A local party member told LabourList: “To have such a rigged process in our constituency, compared to MPs like Christian Wakeford bypassing the selection all together, is a slap in the face to both the membership and the public, and screams of a party that is cowardly and corrupt.

“We cannot criticise the Tories for forcing unelected politicians on the public when we are doing exactly the same thing, with even less party democracy in many cases.”

A Momentum source said the dissolution of the committee was done for “vague and spurious reasons” and described the decision as “a concoction of opportunism and pretexts to cover up yet another rigging of a parliamentary selection”.

Ex-MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad was excluded from the longlist in the constituency in October. She declared in a statement that it was “plain as day” that the selection process being run by the party is being “factionally abused” and is “not for for purpose”.

LabourList understands the reason cited for her exclusion was concern over past social media activity. Dent Coad apologised in November 2017 after being accused of being a “racist” after writing a blog post in which she described Conservative London assembly member Shaun Bailey as a “token ghetto boy”.

Commenting at the time, a Momentum spokesperson said: “It is a travesty of justice that passionate, popular advocates for their community like Emma are being blocked en masse by Keir Starmer’s Labour on spurious grounds, so loyalists from outside the area can be parachuted in.”

The selection committee in Camberwell and Peckham was also dissolved earlier this week. Southwark News reported on Tuesday that the selection committee had finalised a shortlist of three names on Monday evening.

But an email was sent to committee members from London region, describing the article as a “blatant attempt to undermine” the selection process and informing members that the committee had been dissolved. A shortlist of four was subsequently finalised by the NEC.

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