Labour decides on candidate shortlist for Lewisham East by-election

Labour decides on candidate shortlist for Lewisham East by-election

A shortlist of four women has been drawn up as potential Labour candidates for the forthcoming Lewisham East by election to be held on 14 June.

Local constituency members will chose between three Lewisham councillors, Janet DabyBrenda Dacres and Sakina Sheikh, and Islington councillor and NEC member Claudia Webbe at a meeting scheduled for Saturday.

The selection of the four women by a panel of three female members of Labour’s party’s governing national executive committee, appears to confirm reports that senior party figures want a woman from an ethnic minority to take up the safe Labour seat in the Commons.

Trade unionist Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, who had been described as the favourite to succeed Heidi Alexander as MP for the seat, dropped out at the weekend citing an “unexpected family situation”. Alexander is taking up the job of Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.

Daby, deputy mayor of Lewisham, has cabinet experience as member for community safety and has now been given responsibility for children’s social care. She has previously sought selection for the Lewisham Deptford seat.

Sheikh, who has only just been elected to the council, is a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and has claimed on Twitter that she will be “a champion of the community” and put “working people’s interests above those of property developers in south London”. She also maintains that Labour’s general election defeat last year “delivered a shock to the status quo and special interests”.

Webbe, a firm NEC ally of Corbyn, was closely involved in the selection process for Haringey council candidates earlier this year, which resulted in many sitting  councillors being de-selected or standing down after losing initial “trigger ballots” and their replacement by candidates backed by Momentum, the organisation formed to support Corbyn’s leadership. More Labour seats were lost in Haringey at last week’s borough elections than in any other London borough.

Dacres finished third in last year’s contest to become Labour’s 2018 mayoral election candidate in Lewisham, behind the winner – and now mayor – Damien Egan and the Momentum-backed hopeful Paul Bell. During the campaign, Dacres said she supported shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s pledge that a future Labour government would prevent public bodies awarding contracts to companies registered offshore.

All four women attended a hustings held by Lewisham Momentum yesterday evening,  and the branch is expected to decide tonight whether to endorse Webbe or Sheikh.

The mayoral candidate selection race was notable for the efforts of Egan to appeal to Corbyn supporters in Lewisham by distancing himself from the council’s attempts to advance a major regeneration scheme in South Bermondsey following allegations in the Guardian, which three subsequent investigations found to be unmerited.

The chair of Lewisham East constituency Labour Party complained last week that the NEC was rushing the by-election process without consulting locally. The selection meeting was later moved back from Wednesday, when it was originally scheduled to take place. Heidi Alexander had been a prominent critic of Corbyn’s leadership.

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