Anger in Streatham over Progress AM’s attempt to influence AGM – and Umunna replacement process

London Assembly Member’s leaflet to Streatham Labour members promoted executive candidates more likely to support her parliamentary bid

As the SKWAWKBOX reported this morning, the left took all but one of the ‘exec’ positions at last night’s annual general meeting (AGM) of Streatham CLP – formerly the Progress bastion of quitter MP Chuka Umunna. The losers from the right-wing slate of candidates included Labour First’s anti-left organiser and a regular right-wing candidate for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

But there was also anger and controversy over a leaflet handed out at the meeting containing a message from Assembly Member Florence Eshalomi supporting the right-wing slate of candidates – and what members considered a smear against their recent democratic success in switching Streatham to an all-member meeting (AMM) structure:

The ‘Corbyn-sceptic’ ‘slate’ promoted by the leaflet

The letter asked members to vote for the right-wing selection and told them:

There are members of the local Labour Party who want to use this new system as a mechanism to deselect and me as your London Assembly Member. We need your help to stop this happening.

… the team of candidates who will support the politicians who are making a difference locally could lose. Please attend the AGM on 28th March to make sure they win.

FLorence Eshalomi’s letter – emphasis as per the original

The outrage among members was triggered by three main factors. Firstly, the leaflet makes the false claim that AMM is a mechanism for deselection – all selections of council and other candidates is by all-member vote anyway. Second and more importantly, by the idea of an elected Assembly Member using her position to attempt to influence an internal CLP election.

And thirdly, because Ms Eshalomi is expected to apply to become Streatham’s next parliamentary candidate – and the exec whose composition she was trying to influence will play a significant role in the selection of the new candidate (PPC).

The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ms Eshalomi by email, as neither she nor the GLA Labour group press office were answering their phones this morning. She was asked:

  1. Did you authorise the sending of the letter?
  2. If so, whom did you authorise?
  3. Do you recognise the inappropriateness of an Assembly Member using her position to endorse a particular slate of candidates?
  4. Do you consider it appropriate to include claims that AMM is a means of deselecting you as an AM and deselecting councillors?
  5. Do you intend to apply for the vacant Streatham parliamentary candidacy?
  6. If the answer to question five is positive, do you agree that this makes the leaflet doubly inappropriate, given that it attempts to influence the election of CLP officers who would play a role in the parliamentary selection process?

No response was received by the time of publication.

Local members told the SKWAWKBOX that Ms Eshalomi had subsequently distanced herself from the leaflet, claiming – astonishingly – that she had given permission for a leaflet to be distributed in her name but had nothing to do with its content.

One angry local member said:

The letter was factually false and ultimately unsuccessful. Nonetheless it created a toxic impression that there is some group coming in trying to topple councillors and London assembly members (specifically Flo herself).

Flo’s position is being used to promote a faction of powerful incumbents and the need to protect them to defend against some fabricated plot to deselect.

This is an internal election which should left to the grassroots to promote, not Labour representatives who are elected to serve constituents. Her position was used to influence the election of officers who could have a role to play in the upcoming parliamentary selection process – which Flo would benefit from.

Chuka was Progress and Flo is the Progress front-runner to be the candidate. Streatham needs an MP who identifies with what the Labour Party stands for. We can’t afford to let Chuka mark two become our candidate.

To keep up to date with events in Streatham, follow @StreathamSLLab and @Streatham4Corbs on Twitter.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

The Labour right in Streatham had grown used to having its own way under an MP who was a senior figure in the well-funded Blairite Progress faction. That the tectonic plates have shifted there will worry Labour right-wingers across the country.

Florence Eshalomi’s letter attempted to maintain that status quo in a way that would have potentially benefited her chances of becoming Streatham’s next MP.

She has claimed that the content of the letter was not hers – but that’s scarcely better than if it was, as it casts serious doubt on her judgment to allow a smear-driven message to go out in her name without knowing or controlling its contents.

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1 comment

  1. “Ms Eshalomi had subsequently distanced herself from the leaflet, claiming – astonishingly – that she had given permission for a leaflet to be distributed in her name but had nothing to do with its content.”

    If this is so then one word comes to mind. Incompetent!

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