Last week, the SKWAWKBOX revealed exclusively that the Labour ‘Local Campaign Forum’ (LCF) in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell – home to three Labour MPs – was under threat of suspension by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC). Serious allegations of misconduct have been made and one of the borough’s three MPs was blocked by local officers from standing for selection to the ‘panel’ of prospective council candidates – he had indicated that he would not stand again for election as an MP.
The SKWAWKBOX can now reveal that the disputes panel of Labour’s NEC is due to meet on Monday and will discuss and decide the selection. This blog can also reveal more information about the nature of the various allegations.
One of the MPs wishes to stand as a council candidate with a view to standing down as an MP at the next General Election. A proposal was made to block his candidacy on the basis of a letter from Labour’s parliamentary Chief Whip, but eyewitnesses say the letter was misapplied and should not have blocked him.
Eyewitnesses say that a vote was taken, but no fewer than four people ineligible to vote because of a conflict of interest – they were also standing for selection to the panel – were allowed to vote anyway. All voted to exclude him. Some of the ineligible voters work for rival MPs.
The MP is appealing the decision.
At the contentious meeting of the LCF, attendees were assured that steps would be taken to accommodate any candidates waiting for their panel interviews or the results of an appeal. These steps would involve each affected candidate being asked which wards of the borough they were interested in applying for – and the selection process in those wards would be put on hold until they were free, or ruled ineligible, to apply.
Locals say that this promise was ignored and attempts were made to rush through the selection process, in order to finalise the candidates’ panel before any appeals or interventions could be made.
This plan was only abandoned after Labour’s national head office issued a directive blocking any selections in affected wards until the promised process had been followed.
Sandwell Council and LCF have been rocked by serious scandals involving allegations of sexism, sexual misconduct and racism against senior figures.
The sexism and sexual harassment allegations include both physical harassment and online behaviour involving the objectification of female colleagues and even one incident of images of the genitalia of one male representative being recorded on a phone given to a female colleague.
The racism allegations involve racist language used among some councillors about colleagues from the area’s Pakistani community and attempts to ostracise and oust them.
The councillors involved in these alleged behaviours are still in post – they have not been suspended pending investigation, as Labour’s rules and procedures would dictate.
The NEC’s decision on Monday is keenly awaited by local members and activists eager to see action to see a clear-out of people that they believe have retained a tight grip – by any means necessary – on power and influence in the borough, bringing the Labour Party into disrepute.
So central is the area in terms of the influence of its MPs and other senior figures in the West Midlands that if the suspension goes ahead, it will send shockwaves through the region.
This will give hope to campaigners in Sandwell and the wider region looking to democratise West Midlands Labour – and to select ‘new broom’ candidates in time for May’s fast-approaching local elections.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.