A Labour candidate in a key marginal seat has hit out at the party’s ‘kangaroo court’ tactics after she was barred from standing in the general election.
Sally Gimson, who had been officially chosen to contest Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, was told on Wednesday morning that she had failed an endorsement interview by a specialist panel of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
Gimson was stripped of her candidacy following complaints from some party members about alleged treatment of a disabled activist during a meeting in her home constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, allegations she strenuously denies.
One of the complaints was made by a member of her local party who also works for the Labour party nationally.
Bassetlaw is a crucial marginal that is 52nd on the Tories’ list of top targets for the election. Its former MP John Mann, an arch critic of Jeremy Corbyn, stepped down to take a government role combatting anti-Semitism.
Mann had tweeted that Gimson’s original adoption as the candidate was a triumph over the leftwing Momentum group which had favoured another contender for the seat.
Gimson was adopted by a narrow majority after a vote of local party members last month.
One of the defeated candidates, a Nottinghamshire councillor called Keir Morrison, is believed to be the new favourite to take the seat when the NEC picks a replacement.
Morrison hit the headlines in 2015 when he appeared alongside Ed Miliband wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher’s grave’. Miliband later said he disapproved of the t-shirt and its sentiment.
Gimson said the first she knew of any problem was when she received a letter last Friday alleging 10 complaints about her behaviour at Labour party meetings in London. She was then interviewed over the phone by an NEC panel comprising trade union reps Andi Fox and Sarah Owen, and Momentum founder Jon Lansman.
“I was told not to tell anyone and if I did so I would be expelled,” she said. Gimson gathered 22 witness statements defending her conduct but after the phone interview the panel decided to overturn her candidacy.
Gimson told HuffPost UK: “This really did feel like a kangaroo court, they were going to be judge and jury and witnesses.
“I’ve been a loyal Labour party member since 2002. It’s really bad for Bassetlaw. I’ve been on the doorstep, I’ve told everyone I’m the candidate, I’m picking up votes for Labour here.
“We talk about justice and fairness in the Labour party and that the party members matter and this happens. We are weeks off a general election, Labour needs to win this seat and this is not the way to go about doing it.”
Gimson denies claims that she called the cousin of an aide to Corbyn a “f*cking idiot” in a meeting. He had tried to amend a party motion condemning the government’s Universal Credit with a move to force the local Camden council not to evict any tenants in debt through the welfare system.
She also denies any wrongdoing when one activist was prevented from entering a trigger ballot meeting for local MP Keir Starmer. Most of all, Gimson vehemently denies that she had a row with a disabled activist. “Someone else went a bit far, not me, there were apologies afterwards...I did not address him personally. No one made a complaint about me to anyone.”
The Labour party refused to comment on internal selection processes.
However party sources said that the consensus on the panel, which included individuals with different political affiliations, was that she should not be endorsed. The ruling NEC confirmed the decision.
One source added: “Party staff aren’t involved in any such decisions.”
It is understood that some of the complaints pre-date her selection and covers complaints other than conduct in CLP meetings.
Gimson was originally allowed to go through to the shortlist for the seat despite being quizzed by NEC members for tweets she had sent in support of Corbyn’s leadership rival Owen Smith in 2016. The panel told her at the time that ‘due diligence’ had been completed.