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
Credit: 
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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.

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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.