Party’s actions leave it ‘wide open’ to accusations of a stitch-up
An array of Liverpool MPs and councillors, BAME MPs and activists along with other senior figures and groups from the Labour movement have ramped up the pressure on the party leadership tonight with an open letter attacking the party’s handling of the city’s mayoral candidate selection and the complete lack of transparency in the way three shortlisted women were arbitrarily removed and barred from standing – and demanding that the selection process be halted until this is put right:
Dear Sir Keir Starmer, General Secretary, NEC Chair/Secretary
We are writing to express our serious concerns about the way in which the Liverpool Mayoral Selection process has been handled, and to express our alarm at what looks like an attempt to railroad through a new candidate before we have answers about why the previous shortlist was scrapped.
Reopening the selection on the eve of ballots arriving with members, and preventing all 3 shortlisted candidates – Wendy Simon, Ann O’Byrne and Anna Rothery – from reapplying, is unprecedented.
Thorough fair scrutiny of prospective candidates, especially in consideration of the unique context in which this election is taking place, is welcome. That should not mean carte blanche to remove all transparency, fairness and accountability from the process.
The party must immediately provide clarity and transparency about why this has happened and why each of the 3 originally approved shortlisted candidates has been blocked, and those decisions must be open to scrutiny and challenge.
The previous shortlist included Councillor Anna Rothery who never held a Cabinet or executive role under the previous leadership and, if elected, would have become the first black woman mayor of a UK city. We are aware of reports that she is pursuing a legal challenge to the party’s decision to exclude her. Justice must be allowed to take its course before any replacement shortlist of candidates is imposed and, if Anna’s legal case proves that she was treated unfairly, she must be reinstated to her rightful place on the ballot. The party’s actions would otherwise appear discriminatory and further damage the party’s reputation and it’s standing with BAME communities.
As you will know, the Liverpool Labour Group and a number of Merseyside CLPs have carried motions criticising the way the process has been handled and calling for immediate transparency and accountability. This fiasco has caused extreme consternation in Liverpool, demotivating our members ahead of a crucial election.
Any decision taken on Labour’s candidate, while previously shortlisted candidates remain excluded without due process afforded to challenge those decisions, will be wide open to charges of a political stitch-up and therefore will not have the confidence of the Labour membership or the wider Liverpool public.
We fear that this would cause irreparable harm to Labour’s standing in the city and have a severe detrimental impact in the local and mayoral elections. We are therefore asking the party to change course as a matter of urgency and restore unfairly treated candidates to the ballot sheet for distribution on 8 March.
We look forward to your early response in advance of any further steps being taken in the selection process.
Dan Carden MP
Ian Byrne MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Clive Lewis MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Apsana Begum MP
Ian Lavery MP
Nadia Whittome MP
Richard Burgon MP
Claudia Webbe MP
Patrick Philip Vernon OBE
Lord Simon Wooley, Operation Black Vote
Jacqueline McKenzie, human rights lawyer
Lee Jasper, BAME Lawyers 4 Justice
Zita Holbourne, National Chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK
Sunny Lambe, Black Labour Movement UK
Jennie Formby, former General Secretary of the Labour Party
Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary, Unite
Sarah Wooley, General Secretary, BFAWU
Ian Hodson, National President, BFAWU
Jane Stewart, Unite National Women’s Committee
Sohayalla Wilson, Vice Chair, Unite North West BAME Committee
Pete Pascal, CWU North West BAME Lead & Equalities Officer for Mersey Branch
CWU Greater Mersey Branch
CWU Warrington Mail Centre
Merseyside BLM Alliance
Calderdale Against Racism
Merseyside Caribbean Centre
Labour Party LGBT+ Network
Cllr Sarah Morton
Cllr Alison Clarke
Cllr Tim Jeeves
Cllr Lena Simic
Cllr Gerard Woodhouse
Cllr Ahmed Ali
Cllr Majid Dar
Cllr Azra Ali
Cllr Nasrin Ali
Cllr Amna Abdullatif
Cllr Amanda Pinnock
Cllr Munsif Dadd
Labour has been heavily criticised this evening after announcing a two-person shortlist of one 22-year-old right-wing man and one woman in place of the three barred women with half a century of council experience among them. The city’s Labour-run council had already passed a motion last Saturday demanding that Labour come clean about its actions.
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