Labour favourite to replace Heidi Alexander drops out of Lewisham race
The battle to replace Heidi Alexander as MP for Lewisham East took a surprise turn today as the favourite to secure the Labour nomination dramatically dropped out.
UK Black Pride co-founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah said an “unexpected family situation” had forced her hand.
The LGBT campaigner and union official had been tipped for success by senior Labour figures from the moment she declared her intention to stand, according to reports.
Her withdrawal means Lewisham councillor Sakina Sheikh and Labour NEC member Claudia Webbe - a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn - are likely to duke it out to fight for the plum nomination.
Ms Opoku-Gyimah took to Twitter shortly before the application deadline today to break the news that she would no longer be standing.
“I want to let you know that an expected family situation has forced me to reflect long and hard on whether to put myself forward for consideration to be selected as the next labour party candidate in the Lewisham East by-election,” she said.
“The opportunity to represent was an honour I would have relished. The support I have received made me believe it could be done.”
She went on: “It has not been an easy or happy decision for me not to put myself forward so I ask for my privacy at this time.”
And she added: “As an activist, grassroots campaigner but mother first, it has not been an easy decision.”
The Labour NEC is set to reveal its shortlist for the nomination early next week - amid expectations it will be an all-women, all-BME choice.
On Saturday the Constituency Labour Party in Lewisham East will vote on which candidate gets the nomination.
The winner of the Labour selection process will go on to defend a majority of more than 21,000 at the by-election on 14 June.