Labour chaos as Lewisham East by-election favourite refuses to quit nomination race

Posted On: 
19th May 2018

The race to secure the Labour candidacy for the Lewisham East by-election was today thrown into chaos as the favourite for the plum nomination rejected demands by party bosses to stand down.

The by-election was triggered after Heidi Alexander quit as an MP
PA Images

A selection meeting to pick the Labour MP hopeful was dramatically put on hold as key figures thrashed out whether Momentum-backed Sakina Sheikh would be allowed to stand.

It emerged this morning she had previously supported rival party Take Back the City - but her allies insisted she had quit the organisation when it decided to stand candidates against Labour.

ANALYSIS Could the Lewisham East nomination be the battleground for the next Corbynite war?

Jeremy Corbyn ally among all-female and all-BME Lewisham East by-election shortlist

Labour favourite to replace Heidi Alexander drops out of Lewisham race

After a 15-minute pause the hustings went ahead with Ms Sheikh continuing in the race.

The row exploded this morning when it emerged Ms Sheikh chaired a Kilburn hustings at the general election and was listed in the event notes as a member of Take Back the City.

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 it did not stand candidates at the 2017 general election - and a sources said the listing was a mistake as Ms Sheikh had quit the group long before.

PoliticsHome understands Labour general secretary Jennie Formby - a former Unite official - and fellow National Executive Committee Jim Kennedy - also from Unite - decided to throw her out the race.

But Ms Sheikh and the Momentum campaign pushed back - while the Huffington Post reported Karie Murphy - the chief of staff to labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - overruled the decision.

A Labour source said: “Jennie has been rolled over by Momentum.”

A Momentum source said Ms Sheikh was involved with Take Back the City in 2015 as a community organiser, but left the group when it registered as a political party because she did not want to help it run against Labour.

Also fighting it out for the Lewisham East nomination are Islington councillor Claudia Webbe - who is backed by Unite - and local Lewisham deputy mayor Janet Daby.

The winner of the selection will go on to defend a majority of more than 21,000 on 14 June.

The by-election was triggered after former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander quit the seat earlier this month to work for London Mayor Sadiq Khan.