EXCL Female Labour MPs urge Jeremy Corbyn make sure a woman replaces Heidi Alexander
Dozens of female Labour MPs will write to Jeremy Corbyn to urge him to ensure a woman replaces outgoing Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander.
A letter organised by Shadow Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler and seen by PoliticsHome says Labour “must ensure we maintain our current balance in terms of gender representation”.
Rumours have been rife that Labour will today pick an all-women and all-BME shortlist for the contest, from which Lewisham East members will select their chosen candidate this weekend.
The letter spearheaded by a Shadow Cabinet member suggests claims about an all-women shortlist being picked are likely to be proved correct.
However, there is concern among moderates in the constituency that efforts to limit representation on the shortlist are a bid to prevent their candidates getting on the ballot.
The letter has already been signed by 23 members of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party and is expected to attract more signatories before being sent to the leader today.
It reads: “As members of the Women’s PLP we champion your commitment to ensure that the Labour Party reaches 50/50 gender balance by the next election...
“In light of Heidi Alexander’s resignation, we must ensure we maintain our current balance in terms of gender representation.
“Therefore we believe that the next candidate for Lewisham East should be a woman.”
It adds: “Labour is the only party which takes women’s representation seriously. We have more female MPs than all the other parties combined.
“In order to continue our success we urge you to support our call that the next candidate for Lewisham East should be a woman.”
Meanwhile, one candidate for the selection was last night blocked from attending a Momentum-organised hustings when the campaign group said it wanted an all-women shortlist.
Local councillor Joe Dromey asked to join the event but the local branch refused - despite Labour having officially declared the selection to be entirely open.
Mr Dromey responded: "It is an open selection though, so it’s a shame members won’t hear from all candidates.
"Could you let members know why I’m not there? Wouldn’t want them to think I just chose not to come."
Ms Alexander quit her job last week to take up the role of London's deputy mayor for transport - prompting a summer by-election in a constituency where Labour enjoys a 21,000 majority.
She was Shadow Health Secretary from when Jeremy Corbyn took over as leader in September 2015, before quitting in June the following year amid a string of resignations in the party.
She chaired the 2016 leadership challenge by Owen Smith and most recently has campaigned against official Labour policy on Brexit.