Local Labour chair quits party over 'fix' after Jeremy Corbyn ally chosen to replace Keith Vaz

Posted On: 
19th November 2019

The chairman of Keith Vaz's local Labour party has quit after a Jeremy Corbyn ally was picked to replace the disgraced former MP as an election candidate.

Keith Vaz is being followed by Claudia Webbe as the candidate for Leicester East.
Credit: 
PA

Councillor John Thomas announced he was resigning from Labour after 34 years as he claimed Claudia Webbe's selection in Leicester East was a "fix" by party bosses.

He also launched an outspoken attack on Jeremy Corbyn, who he described as a "clown".

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Mr Vaz, who had been MP for the seat since 1987, quit Parliament after being handed a six month Commons ban for offering to buy cocaine for two male prostitutes.

Ms Webbe, who is a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, was chosen by a selection panel to contest the seat it held with a 22,000 majority at the last election.

But that decision was blasted by Councillor Thomas, who also took a swipe at Mr Corbyn's stance on Brexit, in his resignation letter to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby.

Councillor Thomas said he had "spent over 30 years of my life working for a party that I now know that I have nothing in common with".

And he added: "I can no longer follow the clown that leads the Labour Party, he is heavily influenced by the Trotskyite Len McCluskey and is now as the Hoki Coki leader, in out, and shake it all about he has turned this great party into a laughing stock.

"Please cancel the direct debit made in favour of your party by me and return all money’s taken by you through Leicester City Council Labour Group to me.

"I am also shocked that you have chosen a candidate who is a Councillor in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington CLP to be the Labour Candidate for Leicester East for the next General Election. Where is the democracy in all this? It is a fix and a disgrace."

But a Labour Party source said: "Claudia Webbe is a BAME woman who was born in and grew up in Leicester.

"Her knowledge of the constituency, her extensive experience as a councillor and as a campaigner for equality for all ethnic minority groups make her an excellent candidate.

"The panel that chose her as a candidate included regional and local constituency representatives."

The angry letter comes after Sundip Meghani, who lost out to Ms Webbe in the battle to be the Labour candidate, accused the party of "nepotism" over the decision to pick her for the seat.

He said: "It sends entirely the wrong message and is an insult to the people I come from. It shows just how little the Labour party values and respects the Indian community, particularly Hindus and Sikhs."

Meanwhile Labour Friends of India cited the selection process for Leicester East as it expressed "regret" that the party had chosen "just one candidate of Indian heritage in 39 safe Labour seats, and no Indian heritage candidate in 100 target seats".

They said: "Furthermore, despite NEC panels shortlisting or even selecting candidates in areas with a large Indian community such as Leicester, Ealing, Ilford, West Bromwich and Derby, no Indian heritage candidates were selected. Despite making representations on this matter, our calls have been ignored."