The controversial contest to select Labour’s mayoral candidate for Newham has been throw wide open with a backbench councillor declaring her readiness to run and long-term incumbent Sir Robin Wales, in a surprise move, declaring his support for an open selection process to settle the issue.
With some Labour members gathering in ward meetings to decide whether to back Sir Robin going forward automatically to seek a fifth mayoral term or to instead support the process being opened to other hopefuls, the Newham Recorder revealed that Rokshana Fiaz, who represents Custom House ward, would take part in any open selection should Sir Robin to secure an “affirmative nomination”.
But within minutes of the Recorder’s story going live, Sir Robin issued a press release stating that he believed members should choose the open selection option, stating that this would enable them to “debate the vision that we present to the people of Newham” and “unite as a party” prior to May’s local elections.
On London understands that the two developments are not directly connected, as Fiaz gave her interview to the Recorder last week, but publication was held over until today.
Sir Robin had been expected to face a tough battle to win the affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot”, a re-run of a process originally completed in autumn 2016, which he was declared winner of by 20 votes to 17. The outcome was challenged by a group of local members and a legal action ensued, leading to the original result being cancelled. On London has substantiated some claims that some of the votes for Sir Robin and aspects of the conduct of the process itself were questionable.
Fiaz, who has long been regarded as potential challenger to Sir Robin, told the Recorder she was putting herself forward because, “I want to offer a fresh start for this council and a new ambitious alternative for Newham”. She was born and brought in Newham and first elected to the council in 2014. She sits on its overview and scrutiny and strategic development committees.
In an election leaflet, Sir Robin expressed pride in achievements under his mayoralty, including freezing council tax for nine years, a licensing system for private sector landlords, the “creation of council-owned small business” and the job brokerage, Workplace. He described these as part of “the radical agenda that we have been following since I have been Mayor and continues to drive my vision for Newham”.
The re-run “trigger ballot”, which will be administered by officers of Labour’s London region rather than by Newham’s local campaign forum as before, will be concluded over the weekend of 10 and 11 February as previously announced. But Sir Robin’s urging members and affiliated organisations which supported him before to vote “no” in the trigger ballot this time, an open contest, which only party members can take part in on a one-member-one-vote basis, looks highly likely.