Ilford South hopeful who switched support to Jas Athwal complained of ‘colonial tactics’ to ‘grab votes’

Ilford South hopeful who switched support to Jas Athwal complained of ‘colonial tactics’ to ‘grab votes’

A former contender to be Labour’s candidate for the Ilford South parliamentary constituency cited “threats, bullying and bribes” and the use of “old colonial tactics of divide and conquer between communities and religious groups to grab a few votes” when announcing her decision to drop out of the race and instead back Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal.

Sonia Klein surprised some on the Corbynite wing of the party by choosing to support Athwal rather than his chief rival, Momentum-backed Sam Tarry, who is a strong ally of the Labour leader. But in a 29 September Facebook post Klein contrasted what she called an ugly “new normal” of politics “controlled by interest groups” with what she called Athwal’s commitment to transparency and consultation. She described him as “not beholden to any interest group, only to Ilford South residents” and said “Ilford needs someone to bring people together”.

Athwal was expected to be elected as Labour’s candidate at a meeting on Saturday but was suspended by the party late on Friday night following a complaint about him which he says was made on 13 August. After allegations of a “stitch up” by Athwal supporters, including Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, Labour paused the selection process and has now re-started it, inviting candidate applications to start again.

In a statement, Athwal said he had responded “in detail” on 20 August to the allegations made against him, but that no reply was received from the Labour Party and that he had heard nothing about the issue until his solicitor was emailed with news of the suspension at 11:00 pm on Friday, leaving him no time to challenge the decision.

Klein’s Facebook comments about dubious political tactics do not directly refer to the Ilford South contest or to any of those seeking to become the Labour candidate, but, being made in the context of her declaring her backing for Athwal, are bound to be seen as a criticism of the conduct of some activists campaigning for Tarry. Klein has been approached by On London for comment.

Redbridge has seen a number of complaints by Labour Party members against fellow party members in recent years. Tarry supporter Syed Eyamen Siddiqi, who chairs Ilford Momentum, appears to still be suspended following complaints about him which prevented him running for Redbridge Council last year. Siddiqi has been approached for comment.

In July 2018, Redbridge councillor Roy Emmett was cleared by the council’s monitoring officer, responsible for councillors’ conduct, of two allegations about him by a fellow councillor, Aziz Choudhury, in his capacity as Labour Group chief whip. Choudhury, who first won a seat in 2010, had by the time of the decision been prevented from defending it after failing to be passed fit to run again by a Labour interview panel, along with three other sitting councillors.

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