Selections drama as Waugh and Starmer allies Akehurst and Simons picked but Russell-Moyle out and Shaheen ‘at risk’

Labour has picked senior Keir Starmer allies Josh Simons and Luke Akehurst as retirement seat candidates and handed general election candidacies to Westminster journalist Paul Waugh, Camden council leader Georgia Gould and a former Rachel Reeves adviser – but moved to block Lloyd Russell-Moyle from restanding in Brighton on a day of selections drama.

Speculation is also mounting over the future of another candidate on the left of the party, Faiza Shaheen, in an east London marginal. LabourList understands she was under investigation this week over past social media posts, and The Times reports a claim she is likely to be de-selected too with just days until election nominations close.

Local party sources in Brighton and Shaheen’s Chingford and Wood Green seat have hit out at the two candidates’ treatment. It comes amid a row over claims and counter-claims Britain’s first Black woman MP Diane Abbott would also be blocked from re-standing, prompting further criticism from the left of the party of “disturbing” briefings.

Three-person panels made up of national executive committee members  are handling the selection of about 20 final Labour candidates this week, with a fast-tracked process to prepare for the general election, but little say for local parties or activists.

READ MORE: Diane Abbott selection ‘farce’ as Starmer says decision not made on blocking her

On Wednesday night key selection choices included:

  • The leading Labour First and Labour to Win activist Luke Akehurst, also a member of Labour’s national executive committee and a strong Starmer supporter, has been unveiled as candidate for North Durham.
  • Josh Simons, director of the fast-growing Starmerite think tank Labour Together, was handed the Makerfield seat.
  • Former Rachel Reeves adviser Heather Iqbal was selected in Dewsbury and Batley.
  • The journalist Paul Waugh has also just been picked in Rochdale at his second attempt on Wednesday night, after missing out when Azhar Ali was picked before Labour’s humiliating by-election defeat.
  • Camden council leader Georgia Gould, also chair of London Councils, was picked to stand in Maida Vale.
  • Sonia Kumar, who works in the NHS, has been unveiled as Labour candidate for key target seat Dudley, where Labour launched its local election campaign.
  • Calvin Bailey, who works in the RAF, was announced as candidate in the Labour-held London seat Leyton and Wanstead after John Cryer stood down this week as MP.
  • Connor Rand, a former Labour organiser and senior researcher at shopworkers’ union Usdaw,  is the new Altrincham and Sale candidate, after the previous candidate recently stood down.

One observer on social media called it a “big night of parachutes”.

Russell-Moyle hits out at de-selection

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who has served as the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown since 2017, said on social media that he had received an administrative suspension letter “out of the blue” and claimed that the suspension related to a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint about my behaviour eight years ago”.

He said: “This is a false allegation that I dispute totally and I believe that it was designed to disrupt this election.

“There isn’t enough time to defend myself as these processes within the party take too long, so the party have told me that I will not be eligible to be a candidate at the next election.”

READ MORE: Labour selections in retirement, suspension and target seats: See filled and unfilled seats in our election tracker

Russell-Moyle said he was “gutted” and said he aims to cooperate with the investigations process to clear his name.

He said: “I wish Keir Starmer, Angela Ryaner and the Labour team the best of luck and hope to be celebrating Labour wins across Sussex and beyond on election night.”

Local councillors are said by one source to be “utterly furious” by the news.

One councillor told LabourList: “My enthusiasm to campaign has been majorly dented – and I am sure I speak for many.”

The Labour Party confirmed Russell-Moyle has been suspended from the party “pending investigation following the receipt of a serious complaint last week”. A new candidate for the constituency is due to be announced “in the coming days”.

A party spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Neal Lawson,  a former Labour adviser and director of cross-party campaign group Compass, who himself recently faced a Labour probe, said: “Whatever the justification for blocking these candidates from standing, the cynical timing of these leaks stinks of factional back-room manoeuvring.

“Having waited til the absolute last minute to make a decision, the Labour leadership will now impose their cronies and deny local members a say in who represents them.”

Shaheen in the lurch as local source slams last-minute probe

LabourList understands Faiza Shaheen also faced internal party scrutiny this week over past social media posts, leaving her future fighting ex-Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford and Wood Green, after narrowly missing out on defeating him in 2019, hanging in the balance. Shaheen’s team were not immediately available for comment.

One local party source condemned the probe as “devious” when Shaheen had “campaigned assiduously” and fundraised successfully despite the challenges of combining it with being a new mother, and suggested she had been confronted “totally out of the blue” with the allegations at the last minute before the election.

They suggested IDS would be “laughing all the way to the polling station” fighting a CLP “totally geared up to getting Faiza elected”. Labour was not immediately available for comment. “This surely is not the way to run the party.”

A spokesperson for Momentum said of The Times’ report, which cited party sources suggesting she would be blocked: “It is deeply disturbing to see another BAME woman come under attack through anonymous Labour briefings.”

It comes just hours after a party row and confusion over the fate of Diane Abbott, with an anonymous report also in The Times suggesting she would be blocked just after the whip was restored, but Starmer later saying no decision had been made. One party figure called the situation a “farce”.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We have selected a fantastic group of candidates in place for the General Election on Thursday 4 July. They will be campaigning across the country to bring Labour’s message of change to voters.”

A party source added that the Prime Minister calling a surprise summer election meant selections needed to take place through emergency procedures to make sure everyone had a chance to vote Labour.

Candidates ‘honoured’

Meanwhile Paul Waugh was picked in one of the remaining seats Labour needs to select for, Rochdale, which the party hopes to win back from Workers’ Party MP George Galloway.

He posted on X that it was a “true honour” to be candidate for his hometown:

Josh Simons said on X he was also “honoured” to be selected in Makerfield.

He said Yvonne Favargue had served with “diligence and care”, adding: “It would be a privilege to follow in her footsteps.”

Read more of our 2024 general election coverage here.

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