Cllr Jas Athwal suspended after review of anonymised investigation by independent body
Jas Athwal, Redbridge council leader and hopeful in the contest to replace quitter MP Mike Gapes as Labour’s candidate in Ilford South has been dramatically suspended the day before local Labour members were due to vote on their candidate for the next general election.
Athwal, considered on the right of the party, was mentioned recently in a complaint during the selection campaign that membership cards were being handed out in bulk to non-members at a branch nomination meeting. The Labour Party annulled the results of the meeting.
The SKWAWKBOX has been told that the suspension was not related to the incident with the membership cards, but rather to an investigation into ‘serious allegations’ that had been going on for some months.
Mr Athwal’s supporters predictably described the suspension as a ‘stitch-up’ and demanded that the selection be suspended, while neighbouring centrist Wes Streeting complained that proceeding would “confirm our suspicion” that the suspension was politically motivated.
However, the suspension resulted from an anonymised review by a Labour panel of a report by independent investigators, so the panel did not know that the subject of the investigation was due to stand for selection.
The party did not suspend the selection process. However, the SKWAWKBOX understands that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked the remaining two candidates whether they would object to a postponement in order to allow members a wider choice and to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Left candidate Sam Tarry agreed, as presumably did Syeda Momotaz Rahim.
Bringing in additional applicants will mean a significant delay in the selection of Labour’s candidate for the general election.
Cllr Athwal has been contacted for comment.
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