Bizarre development in Ilford South candidate race
One of two left hopefuls to become Labour’s candidate in the Ilford South constituency – vacated by the departure of Mike Gapes to the TIG/CUK party – has quit the contest in an email sent to members yesterday.
And in a bizarre twist, Sonia Klein has asked members to back Redbridge council leader Jas Athwal – the leading right-wing prospect for the candidacy:
Explaining her decision in the email, Ms Klein states that:
I have met with Jas to discuss his policy positions including the Middle East, Kashmir, Nuclear, Climate Change, Housing, Crime, the NHS and Brexit. We agree on most issues, other than renewal of Trident – I’ll work on that! I’m not aligned politically with some of his endorsees but I believe it is time for unity…
Jas fights for Labour values and for Jeremy to lead us to victory. He is not a cog of the political machinery and has spent his entire life in Redbridge working to make life better for local people.
However, Mr Athwal is one of the ‘centrist’ councillors who published a widely-reported letter in 2016 calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign as Labour leader – and has been endorsed by right-wing Labour MPs Tom Watson and Wes Streeting.
Labour is also investigating a complaint that one of his supporters was handing out membership cards in bulk outside the Seven Kings Ward branch nomination meeting – a meeting whose results were ultimately annulled by the party – and that while the cards were genuine, the members were not. There were complaints of intimidatory behaviour on the part of some attendees at the meeting.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ms Klein for comment on her decision. She responded with some of the same information included in the email to members and added:
Some are wondering why I am supporting a candidate perceived to be on “the right” — especially given he has been endorsed by Tom Watson and Wes Streeting… I did not find the right wing ogre I was expecting.
I challenged [Jas] on his support of Owen Smith and the infamous letter signed by he and other councillors. Jas explained that he did not believe at that time that Jeremy could lead us to victory, but he was proved wrong.
He also said that he has talked to Jeremy about this directly and is now a believer. I asked about his endorsements [by Watson and Streeting], he said he thought he needed some establishment endorsees [sic] but went to great lengths to make the case that he is his own man…
The community is diverse and needs a Leader who will hold them together and beat Mike Gapes in the next election. Jas Athwal is the only candidate that can do this.
It was also clear from Ms Klein’s comments that she has issues with Momentum.
The other left candidate in the contest is Sam Tarry, Jeremy Corbyn’s former leadership campaign director and a director of Momentum. Tarry has the backing of several unions, including Unite, of close Corbyn ally Jon Trickett – and of the local Sikh Gurdwara.
Mr Athwal was contacted for comment.
The Ilford South hustings and candidate selection take place on Saturday.
Jas Athwal claims to be a convert to the Corbynism, yet even if his history as an anti-Corbyn councillor is discounted, Watson and Streeting – two ardent opponents of Jeremy Corbyn – have happily endorsed him. In addition, the complaints about events at Seven Kings meeting are troubling.
The SKWAWKBOX recommends that all Ilford South members attend Saturday’s hustings and vote for Sam Tarry. A candidate endorsed by Watson and Streeting is not an option for any left-leaning member.
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