What You Need To Know About The Drama Surrounding Labour's Candidate Selection

Keir Starmer has been accused of purging the party ahead of the general election.
Diane Abbott, Keir Starmer and Faiza Shaheen
Diane Abbott, Keir Starmer and Faiza Shaheen
Getty/BBC Newsnight

Keir Starmer is making headlines this week, having been accused of pushing out Labour’s more leftwing candidates ahead of the election.

Rishi Sunak’s sudden decision to send the public to the polls means there have now been a flurry of reports around who the opposition want to represent them in various constituents.

With just one week to go until all of candidates across the country have to be confirmed, veteran MP Diane Abbott has accused Starmer of a “cull of left wingers” – including herself.

Here’s what you need to know.

Diane Abbott

Abbott, the UK’s first female Black MP who has served in parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, lost the whip 13 months ago.

It came after she claimed Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice, not racism. She subsequently apologised and withdrew her remarks.

Labour’s eight-month investigation into her concluded in December. She was given her a “formal warning”about her conduct which it described as “prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the Labour party”.

Abbott said she then took an online course to remedy her actions at the party’s request,

On Tuesday, she had the whip returned to her, but on Wednesday night, she told supporters in Hackney she had been “banned from running” for Labour.

She claimed: “The national party is insisting that I be banned. They haven’t given a reason for banning me. They just want me excluded from parliament.”

However, she vowed she would continue being their MP “for as long as it is possible”, and be a candidate for her constituency “by any means possible” – although she did not clarify if that meant running as an independent.

Her close ally and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is now running as an independent, having lost the whip over his response to a report investigating anti-Semitism in the party.

But, Starmer has claimed no decision has been taken to ban Abbott from running right now, and has not announced any new candidate in her place.

Still, her treatment has infuriated those on the left of Labour along with other more centrist figures like Jess Phillips, who previously served in Starmer’s shadow cabinet.

Six unions have also written to Starmer calling for Abbott to be selected as Labour’s candidate.

There may not be a formal decision about her candidacy until Labour’s ruling body meets next week at the National Executive Committee, ahead of the selection deadline of June 7.

Abbott won the seat in 2019 with a majority of more than 33,000.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

The MP who has represented Brighton Kemptown since 2017 was just suspended from the party after Labour received a “serious complaint” about his behaviour eight years ago.

In a statement, he described the complaint as “vexatious and politically motivated” and said “I believe I will be fully exonerated”.

He said: “This is a false allegation that I dispute totally and I believe it was designed to disrupt this election.

“There isn’t enough time to defend myself as these processes within the party take too long, so the party have told me that I will not be eligible to be a candidate at the next election. I’m gutted.”

He said he was looking to “clear my name”.

Faiza Shaheen

Shaheen was set to stand for Labour until she received an email from the party saying her candidacy had been dropped on Wednesday.

She was just 1,000 votes short of kicking former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith out of seat in Chingford and Woodford in 2019.

Speaking to Newsnight around an hour after receiving the news, Shaheen said the press was briefed before she even found out herself about her candidacy.

The decision allegedly came after Shaheen supposedly liked a post on X (formerly Twitter) which downplayed antisemitism concerns.

The former candidate told the BBC: “Fourteen tweets since 2014 – 10 years – three of those were about the Green Party, and me liking my friend’s tweet before I even joined the Labour Party.

“One of them was about my experience of Islamophobia in the party. How am I not allowed to talk about my experiences of Islamophobia and the double standards, like we’ve seen with Diane Abbott, for instance?

“Honestly I’m so shocked right now to be treated this badly, after being such an active member of the party.”

She added: “To act like I’m someone who is not good at elections, that frustrates Labour’s purpose...”

Starmer loyalists

Amid this removal of more left-wing figures, Labour has selected several strong Starmer supporters to run in the election, putting them forward in safe seats where a shortlist of candidates was not available.

For instance, director of pro-Starmer think tank Labour Together, Josh Simons, will be running for Makersfield, and the secretary of Labour First and director of We Believe Israel networks, Luke Akehurst, will be running for North Durham.

Leader of Starmer’s own Camden Council, Georgia Gould, will be running for Queen’s Park and Maida Vale, while the adviser to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Heather Iqbal, will be running for Dewsbury and Batley.

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