Politics

Abbott accuses Starmer of ‘culling’ Labour left wingers after ‘appalling’ decision

Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of trying to purge general election candidates from the left of the Labour Party.

Questions remain about whether veteran Corbyn ally Diane Abbott will be barred from standing again, while Labour suspended one candidate and declined to endorse another.

Labour’s general election campaign has been overshadowed by the internal chaos over the selection of candidates, which includes the selection of influential figures on the Labour right.

Ms Abbott called it a “cull of left wingers”.

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Leader Sir Keir said no decision had yet been taken about whether Ms Abbott, the UK’s first black female MP, would be allowed to defend her Hackney North seat of 37 years.

She claimed she had been barred from standing after having the whip restored to her this week following a year-long suspension as she was investigated over a letter she wrote in The Guardian suggesting Jewish people do not face racism.

Ms Abbott vowed to stand in Hackney North “by any means possible”.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was MP for Brighton Kemptown, said he had been suspended by Labour over a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint” against him and said he is not being allowed to stand for the party.

He said it was a “false allegation” from eight years ago “that I dispute totally and I believe it was designed to disrupt this election”.

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Abbott ‘not barred’ from standing for Labour

Faiza Shaheen was deselected as the Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green after standing in the seat, held by veteran Tory Iain Duncan Smith, at the last election for Labour.

She said she was in a “state of shock” at “being treated this badly” after receiving an email saying her candidacy had been blocked.

Dr Shaheen was blocked for liking a tweet that allegedly downplayed antisemitism accusations. She said another post involved her describing her experiences of Islamophobia.

A lawyer for Dr Shaheen described the Labour Party process to be selected as “abhorrent, unprofessional and unfair”.

They said a member of the panel interviewing her to be a candidate did not engage and no consideration was given to her being a new mother, with just 5.5 hours notice given before she had to appear in front of the panel and said she could not hear questions properly as her four-month-old baby was crying.

The lawyer added that several of the social media messages raised as misconduct are “several years old”, including from before she became a Labour member.

“The Labour party had ample time to raise questions over this, including during the selection process,” the lawyer said.

She told BBC’s Newsnight: “On top of Gaza, on top of Diane Abbott and now this to me, when there’s such clear double standards of how other people have been treated when stuff has happened… what message are you sending my community? What message are you sending the black community?”

Ms Abbott accused Labour of carrying out a “cull of left wingers” as she branded the decision to block Dr Shaheen “appalling”.

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Faiza Shaheen with Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Pic: PA
Image:
Faiza Shaheen with Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Pic: PA

Asked if he is blocking left-wing candidates from standing, Sir Keir said: “No. I’ve said repeatedly over the last two years… that I want the highest quality candidates – that’s been the position for a very long time.”

Shadow cabinet minister Darren Jones denied there was a “purge” of the left, saying there were many colleagues who “would define themselves as being on the left”, who have been endorsed as Labour candidates.


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Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC), which is handling the selection of about 20 final Labour candidates this week, said the final decision on whether Ms Abbott can defend her seat lies with Sir Keir.

On Mr Russell-Moyle’s suspension, a Labour 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.”

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While those on the left have accused Labour of purging them, candidates on the Labour right have been given the green flag to stand.

Starmer ally and activist Luke Akehurst, who is a member of the NEC, is the candidate for North Durham and Josh Simons, director of the Starmerite thinktank Labour Together, will fight for the Makerfield seat.

Earlier this year, Mr Simons apologised after suggesting people-smuggling gangs could be put on a barge and “shipped to the north of Scotland”, saying: “Who cares?”

Former adviser to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Heather Iqbal, was selected in Dewsbury and Batley, and journalist Paul Waugh will fight for Rochdale.

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