FORMER Labour MPs, Keith Vaz and Claudia Webbe, may stand as independent candidates in the next general election for the Leicester East constituency, warned the city’s mayor.
Labour mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said that such a move could split the vote and potentially hand the seat to the Tories, reported The Guardian.
This marks the initial instance where a prominent figure from the city has expressed worries about deviating from the national trend. Leicester East has been a Labour stronghold since 1987 and has a large south Asian population.
The city gained global attention last year following conflicts involving youths from Hindu and Muslim communities.
Sir Peter asserted that his past political rival, Vaz, and the current MP, Webbe, were planning to re-enter the political scene as independents.
“We could well have two disgraced former Labour party candidates standing in the seat. People are saying that this is a real possibility and it might split the vote and let the Tories in. We as a party need to have a good and credible candidate in place as soon as possible,” he was quoted as saying.
“Keith has been a cancer in the political body of Leicester for decades and like many others in the Labour party in the city I am relieved that the party has realised and has had the courage to cut him out.”
Soulsby, a four-term Labour mayor and previous Leicester South MP, remarked that it had been apparent for quite some time that Vaz was preparing to present himself as an independent candidate during the upcoming general election.
Despite residing in Stanmore, he designated himself as the self-titled honorary president of the constituency Labour Party (CLP) and retained significant influence over the party in that area of the city, the mayor alleged.
Vaz, who served the city for 32 years, withdrew as a candidate in 2019 following his involvement in a tabloid sting where he was caught arranging to obtain cocaine for sex workers.
Webbe, previously the head of the party’s disputes panel, faced the suspension of her privileges after a court determined that she had harassed another woman. She is currently appealing against the party’s decision.
Supporters of Vaz are insisting that he should stand for election once more, while associates of Webbe mentioned that she is contemplating running again.
Meanwhile, the party on Monday (30) revealed two potential candidates: Rishi Madlani, a councillor in Camden and Rajesh Agrawal, who serves as London’s deputy mayor.
Despite stating earlier in the year that he wouldn’t run for election, Vaz’s associates suggest that his ground-level campaigning has significantly intensified, notably within Hindu communities of the city. In the previous year, he sent mailers to households in Leicester advocating to preserve the local hospital and campaigned for the safeguarding of a Gandhi statue. Recently, he has been featured in a booklet extending well-wishes for a five-day Hindu festival.
Webbe told the newspaper, “I remain focused on addressing the requirements of Leicester East residents and advocating for global justice, undeterred by the internal matters within the Labour party.”
Following apprehensions about the party’s performance in the local elections, Labour is enforcing its own list of candidates. These worries arose after the city experienced a loss of 22 council seats while the Tories gained 17, contrary to the national pattern in May.
In August, the Labour party suspended the Leicester East constituency’s Labour division due to alleged irregularities.
While Labour managed to retain all three parliamentary seats in the city during the previous election, Leicester East saw a significant decrease in the party’s majority, dropping from 22,428 votes in 2017 to just 6,019 in 2019.