Just a few minutes ago, at 2pm, a very unusual protest started in the London constituency of Ealing Southall – a protest by residents calling on the Labour party to nominate a new candidate for the General Election in place of the incumbent MP, Virendra Sharma.
The protest follows an open letter submitted by the residents in the middle of last month to the Labour leader and others, expressing their complete lack of confidence in the MP over what they regard as divisive and inflammatory behaviour in a constituency with a large number of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu residents:
The normal processes for a local Labour party to remove an MP who is considered unsatisfactory have been suspended because of the short timescale to the election and the Labour Party has essentially ‘rubber-stamped’ the candidacy of every incumbent MP who wishes to stand for re-election, driving constituents to the extreme measure of a public protest against Mr Sharma’s selection.
This morning, the SKWAWKBOX spoke to a representative of the Southall United campaign behind the letter, who told this blog:
Sharma’s behaviour has been appalling. He has made statements – on the parliamentary record – that are hugely inflammatory towards our Muslim community and has sent abusive and extremely personal messages – worse than anything Simon Danczuk did – to at least one of our highly-respected Sikh residents that he then sent out verbatim to around a hundred other people to embarrass him.
He’s also kept control of the local party by keeping it in special measures. The AGM was held last October and there have been no meetings since. Everything has just been decided for members without them having any chance to contribute.
Just last week the Labour Party has removed Danczuk as a candidate and yesterday they removed Trevor Merralls. If Labour can cancel their candidacy at this late stage, they can do the same with Sharma. He’s not only divisive but he represents a serious risk that Labour will lose a seat we should hold easily and then we’ll lose our representation in Parliament because an unfit MP was protected.
We took the letter to [Labour deputy leader] Tom Watson in person so we could plead with him to take action but his response was, “He’s the candidate and that’s not going to change.” His attitude was unbelievably arrogant.
This has got so bad that for the sake of our community, we’ve had no choice but to take this step [of publicly protesting].
The SKWAWKBOX cannot comment on the accuracy of the allegations, but the people of Southall United are extremely passionate about the issue and feel that they have serious and substantial grounds for their complaint and their action to support it.
The Labour Party – especially in the context of the recent removals of two candidates because of their alleged behaviour – needs to give ear to the appeals by the Southall residents and investigate these allegations as a matter of urgency.
And if they’re found to be correct, the people of Southall Ealing deserve no less than a new candidate with the same speed we’ve seen in the Merralls case, so the General Election can be fought with vigour and conviction and the seat held for Labour as it should be.
(Postscript: the SKWAWKBOX has heard of similar issues in the Slough constituency. If you have information on that situation, get in touch)
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