Thursday, May 05, 2022

Ructions in Leicester Labour Party over Sir Peter Soulsby's reselection as mayoral candidate

Three councillors have accused the Labour party of excluding women, Muslims and whole branches from the process to choose its next Leicester mayoral candidate so the incumbent, Sir Peter Soulsby, did not face a challenge.

The Skwakbox has obtained a letter from the three Labour councillors (Rita Patel, Sharmen Rahman and Patrick Kitterick) to Keir Starmer in which they allege local Labour employees:

  • excluded Muslims from selection votes by holding the votes during Ramadan, in a city with a high proportion of Asian residents in the UK, including in wards with some of the largest Muslim populations in the city
  • disadvantaged women in the selection process
  • cancelled or suspended meetings of branches likely to vote in favour of a selection contest, including one only an hour before the meeting was due to start
  • declared a meeting of the party’s local government committee ‘null and void’ to prevent the party’s preferred committee chair being defeated, yet allowed the ‘procedures secretary’ - a former employee of the mayor and until recently an employee of right-wing Labour MP Jon Ashworth - selected at the void meeting to exercise the role
  • ignored and dismissing complaints about the abuses of democracy and procedure
  • withheld details of vote tallies from members

You can read the full letter on The Skwakbox.

Sir Peter, who has been Labour's elected mayor since the system's inauguration in 2011, was duly chosen as Labour's candidate for the 2023.

But as the Leicester Mercury reports:

Recent months have seen calls from within the party for an open candidacy. Rushey Mead ward councillor Rita Patel told Leicestershire Live that the city would ‘live to regret it’ if a debate on the future leadership of the city was not had, while Patrick Kitterick had also stated his intention to challenge for the candidacy.

I picked up on similar tensions before Labour's 2019 candidate selection:

My sources tell me that Soulsby's people turn up at ... branch meetings and inform members that an open contest would be "divisive," "unhelpful" or "destabilising".

"We don't want the Mercury reporting that Soulsby has been deselected," they are told.

I wish the three councillors joy, but I doubt Keir Starmer will provide it.

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