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Blow for Jeremy Corbyn as Janet Daby named Labour candidate for Lewisham East by-election

Blow for Jeremy Corbyn as Janet Daby named Labour candidate for Lewisham East by-election

Emilio Casalicchio

5 min read

Janet Daby has clinched the Labour nomination for the Lewisham East by-election in a blow for Jeremy Corbyn.

The Lewisham deputy mayor - backed by Labour moderates in the constituency - was declared the winner of the closely-fought contest with around 60% of first preference votes.

She campaigned on a platform to keep the UK in the single market and customs union - neither of which are official Labour policy.

She got 288 votes compared to around 135 for Lewisham councillor Sakina Sheikh and an embarrassing 35 for Islington councillor Claudia Webbe.

Ms Daby will go on to defend a majority of more than 21,000 at the by-election in the heavily Remain-backing constituency on 14 June.

The victory is also a major blow to the Momentum campaign, which had backed Ms Sheikh, and the powerful Unite trade union, which backed Ms Webbe.

The Labour leadership was also thought to have supported Ms Webbe - so the result is a double dose of bad news for Mr Corbyn.

And it further highlights the divisions in the party - with Remain supporting areas pushing the leadership to reject a hard Brexit despite Mr Corbyn trying to appease Brexit supporters in Labour heartlands. 

Despite suggesting she will be a thorn in his side on Brexit, Ms Daby is likely to obey Mr Corbyn on most other issues as she backed him in both his leadership elections.

He took to Twitter to congratulate the victor, saying she would be a "strong voice for the people of Lewisham East in Parliament".


Ms Daby meanwhile said: “It is such an honour to be selected to stand as Labour’s candidate for Lewisham East.


"This is my home and I know the issues that matter to people because they are the same issues that matter to me."

She said she looked forward to working with constituency Labour members and with Mr Corbyn "to bring in the radical Labour government Lewisham East so desperately needs".


It came after a morning of high drama in which Ms Sheikh stopped Labour bosses kicking her out of the contest at the last minute, when it emerged she had previously supported Take Back the City - a former rival party to Labour.

Take Back the City campaigned to win a seat on the London Assembly in 2016 on a platform which included scrapping the Met Police and introducing rent caps.

But sources insisted Ms Sheikh had quit the group in 2015 due to its decision to stand a candidate against Labour.

After a tense period of discussion between senior Labour  figures in the ruling National Executive Committee, the Momentum campaign and the Labour leadership office, it was decided Ms Sheikh could stand.

Tory deputy chair James Cleverly said the confusion was an “absolute shower”. He added: "Corbyn’s Labour Party can’t even stitch up a candidate selection properly."

And the Lib Dem candidate for the by-election Lucy Salek told PoliticsHome: "Lewisham is a one party state, the Labour chaos shows they are too busy fighting amongst themselves, they can't fight for our community"

"Lewisham deserves much better than this."

But congratulations for Ms Daby poured in from Labour party bigwigs, including London mayor Sadiq Khan and shadow frontbenchers Angela Rayner and Matthew Pennycook.

The by-election was triggered after former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander quit the seat earlier this month to work for Mr Khan as deputy mayor for transport.

Ms Alexander was a leading campaigner in the fight for a soft-Brexit and as the first MP to quit the frontbench after the EU referendum was a thorn in the side of the Labour leadership.

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