The 16-strong Labor party director in the Wakefield constituency (CLP) has resigned en masse, accusing Keir Starmer of screwing up the selection of a candidate for the upcoming by-election.
Party members in Wakefield argue that the leader’s office failed to adhere to Labor rules, allowing the local party only one seat out of five on the panels for the longlist and then for the shortlist of candidates.
They allege that neither of the two people who made the shortlist, Kate Dearden and Simon Lightwood, have local roots, and several other plausible candidates, including Wakefield’s deputy leader Jack Hemingway, were passed over.
“These were strong candidates, with a proven track record and local connections,” said a party member who declined to be named. A member of the Labor shadow cabinet described the behavior of Starmer’s office in handling the selection as “arrogant”.
“We don’t want to legitimize what happened,” said one of those who resigned.
Some Labor sources suggested that Starmer’s office was keen to keep Hemingway, an outspoken left winger, off the list.
Hemingway had chatted with Jewish workers’ movement chairman Mike Katz on Twitter, accusing him of downplaying anti-Semitism and showing support for former Labor MP George Galloway.
Hemingway replied that he “never hid that he was on the left side of the party,” and comments he made about anti-Semitism that was not institutional in Labor came ahead of the outcome of the Commission on Equality and Human Rights (EHRC) report. ) about the Labor Party. party.
“I voted unanimously with my local Labor group for the approval of the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of AS should be accepted. I am an anti-racist and firmly believe that anti-Semitism is a scourge that must be overcome.”
The CLP board – elected by local members – has decided to step down rather than play a further role in the selection process. A formal statement is expected later on Friday. The final selection will be made on Sunday.
A Labor spokesman said: “We are delighted to have shortlisted two fantastic candidates with strong ties to the local community.
“On Sunday, local members will make the final choice about a candidate who will be a strong champion for Wakefield and represent a fresh start against a backdrop of Tory failures. Wakefield has been badly let down by the Conservatives and our focus is on winning the by-election and ensuring that local people in Wakefield get the representation and the hard working MP they deserve.” Candidates for by-elections are often chosen using an abbreviated selection process.
Some members expressed concern that Dearden and Lightwood had previously remained, such as former Labor MP for the constituency, Mary Creagh, who lost her seat in the 2019 general election. Wakefield voted 63 percent to leave the EU. .
Dearden is a former chairman of Labor Students, who is now the head of research, policy and external affairs at the Community union, while Lightwood previously worked for Creagh. Their supporters point out that both live in or near the constituency.
The closely watched by-election was triggered by the resignation of Imran Ahmad Khan, the former Conservative MP convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
Labor is eager to win to show that, after promising results in last week’s local elections, the party can recapture parts of the former “red wall” that is a key part of Boris Johnson’s ruling majority.
Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, was also accused of merging local rosters in order to place favorite candidates on winning spots.