UPDATE 18:45 – Labour’s London region has informed Newham members that Rokhsana Fiaz has been reselected as the borough’s mayoral candidate. See email below:
With only three months to go until the borough elections, Labour is still in the process of choosing its candidate for Mayor of Newham. Given the party’s overwhelming political dominance in this patch of east London, that candidate is almost certain to go on to become its Mayor. So who will it turn out to be?
Interviews of mayoral hopefuls took place a week ago, including the incumbent Rokhsana Fiaz and Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member for the City & East constituency (which includes Newham) who is a critic of Fiaz. Progress towards a final decision had been hoped for by the weekend, but none has yet been made.
On London understands that discussions are taking place between Labour’s national top brass and local MPs Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms about the situation. Exactly why that is happening and what will happen next is unclear, perhaps including to those involved at this stage. But some of the backdrop to can be sketched in. It gives a flavour of how fraught Labour politics in Newham continue to be four years after the de-selection of Fiaz’s long-serving predecessor Robin Wales.
- Both of Newham’s constituency Labour parties (CLPs) were suspended by Labour’s national executive committee almost a year ago. The Newham Recorder reported an email from Labour’s London region said: “The party has recently been in receipt of a number of serious allegations regarding the conduct of Labour Party members and membership recruitment practices in Newham”. Last month, the chairs of both CLPs resigned.
- One of those now ex-chairs, Tahir Mirza, a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was a leader of one of two campaigns to alter Newham’s government system launched in October 2019 and do away with directly elected Mayors. A referendum was eventually held last May which saw Newham voters support the continuation of the local mayoral system.
- Also in the mix are various allegations about the influence of extremist Muslims on local Labour politics, which some claim Fiaz has failed to challenge, though she did commission a report following complaints about antisemitism.
- Critics of Fiaz are also expressing disquiet over financial settlements totalling just under £2 million to 63 Newham employees who have left the council’s employment since May 2018 – when Fiaz was elected Mayor which have included non-disclosure agreements.
That’s just a little bit of the context in which the choice of Newham’s mayoral candidate is being made. On London will have more on all this before too long.
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