Labour bosses accused of 'ignoring' local members after men allowed to stand for London safe seat
Labour chiefs have been accused of "ignoring" local party members after a key London safe seat was opened up to male candidates despite a "unanimous" call to keep its all-women shortlist.
Members of the Vauxhall Labour Party have circulated a letter saying they are "deeply disappointed" by the decision to open up candidate selections in the local party to anyone regardless of gender when incumbent Kate Hoey steps aside at the next election.
The seat had previously been earmarked as one of a string of constituencies that Labour reserves for female candidates through all-women shortlists, and local members voted in July to maintain that status.
But HuffPost UK reported that Labour's ruling National Executive Committee had this week decided to allow men to stand in the seat - where Ms Hoey netted a 20,250 majority in 2017 - despite wider moves to boost the number of female MPs.
The move has triggered anger in the Vauxhall Labour Party, with a draft letter seen by PoliticsHome accusing the NEC of failing to "respect" local decision-making.
"As members of Vauxhall Labour Party, we are deeply disappointed by the decision of Labour's National Executive Committee to ignore the wishes of local party members who voted for the use of an all women shortlist (AWS) to find a successor to retiring MP, Kate Hoey," they wrote.
"Vauxhall Labour has long been in favour of AWS, is committed to the longstanding policy of replacing retiring female MPs via AWS and is fully supportive of moves to achieve at least 50% female representation across the PLP. The vote of Vauxhall Labour party in July was unanimous and united all parts of our diverse Labour movement."
The signatories add: "It is a long-standing principle that the NEC respects such local decisions by local members, and it is against the democratic nature of our party to ignore them. Vauxhall Labour members have not had the chance to select their MP for over 40 years - it would be deeply disappointing to begin this selection process by ignoring what local party members want.
"We ask the NEC to respect the decision of local members, abide by the democratic wishes of Vauxhall Labour Party and ensure that we are allowed to choose our next parliamentary candidate via an All Women Shortlist."
The draft letter to Labour's NEC has been signed by members representing different ideological wings of the Vauxhall party, including figures from the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, the centre-left Progress faction and the Unite and Aslef trade unions.
'MORE WOMEN MPs'
The missive to party bosses comes amid a row in Labour over which seats will be subject all-women shortlists as the party picks its candidates for a general election.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison trade union, wrote to Jeremy Corbyn last week to warn against "trading” seats earmarked for women in order to let “favourite sons” run for the party, while former minister Gloria de Piero warned the party risks "going backwards on equality".
But a Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour Party has more women MPs than all other political parties combined and we are committed to improving diverse representation at all levels of the Party.
"In the next General Election, women candidates will be standing in more than two thirds of our key target seats."
A party source meanwhile said Labour was on track to achieve a 50/50 split of female-to-male MPs by the end of the decade, with women already making up 72 out of the 102 candidates chosen to fight key target seats for the next election.
They pointed out that of the 10 Labour seats decided by the NEC this week, five will now be reserved for all-women shortlists, up from the four allocated previously.