Labour members hoping to contest the West Green ward council by election caused by the resignation of Ishmael Osamor following publicity over his recent drug offence conviction will have to undergo a more rigorous vetting process, the party’s local election campaign organising body has said.
An email from Avril Baker, secretary of Haringey’s Labour’s local campaign forum (LCF) informing members living in Haringey about how to seek selection as the by election candidate ends by saying: “We are taking this opportunity to strengthen our vetting process so anyone who was accepted and remained on the candidate panel following the May 2018 elections also needs to re-apply through this new process.”
This means that candidature hopefuls who were approved by LCF panels during last autumn’s controversial selection process for May’s full borough elections will not be automatically eligible to seek selection as the by election candidate. A number of sitting councillors were deselected or stood down during that process, leading to the formation of a new Labour administration dominated by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
Those approved by the LCM as potential candidates last year included recently former members of the Green Party and the Socialist Workers Party and two people who had previously been forced to step down from roles in housing organisations after irregularities in the running of them had been discovered. However, the then council leader Claire Kober underwent lengthy questioning by an interview panel led by Islington councillor Claudia Webbe, a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee and a close ally of Corbyn. Webbe played a central role in that part of the selection process.
Osamor was arrested after being caught carrying £2,500-worth of Class A and Class B drugs when entering the Bestival music festival in Dorset on 8 September 2017. He is reported to have undergone his LCF vetting interview on 17 September that year but, according to one member of the panel he appeared before, “nothing out of the ordinary was declared in the interview.”
Osamor was convicted of possession with intent to supply last week. He continues to work for his mother Kate Osamor, the MP for Edmonton, at the House of Commons. Conservative MP Simon Hoare has asked Speaker John Bercow in the Commons chamber what action he thinks should be taken against a Commons passholder “who has been found guilty of a drug-related offence.” Bercow said it is better that such matters are dealt with privately, but that decisions about passes are his to make.
Kate Osamor, who strongly backed her son’s bid to become a councillor, has been contacted by On London to ask when she first learned of his arrest. He was selected to contest the West Green ward on 20 November 2017, ousting a sitting candidate. On London has been blocked by Kate Osamor on Twitter, along with several other media outlets and journalists and even people who have retweeted articles about her son’s difficulties.
Haringey Council leader Joseph Ejiofor has told the BBC he has asked the Labour Group’s chief whip to conduct an internal investigation into the Ishmael Osamor affair, though it is not clear what the scope of it is.
Updated at 12.10.