• Monday, September 25, 2023

UK News

Leicester East Labour party branch suspended over operation concerns

By: Sam Moorhouse

THE Labour party has suspended its entire Leicester East branch.

The national executive (NEC) is investigating the troubled constituency Labour party (CLP) over concerns around its operation, according to an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

All branch and constituency Labour party meetings will be stopped “until further notice”, and all CLP and branch officers have been “relieved of their positions and duties” while an internal investigation takes place, the email said.

It has not yet been confirmed what specifically prompted the suspension. A Labour source said in reaction: “The NEC has a duty to safeguard the integrity of CLPs, to ensure they are properly run in line with the party’s rules and procedures and can operate fully, inclusively and democratically.”

It comes after what has already been a turbulent year for the Labour party in Leicester, following mass deselections prior to the local elections in May. The national committee purged 19 of its councillors ahead of the elections – a decision slammed as “undemocratic” at the time.

A majority of those deselected were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background, which also led to criticism. Labour sources stressed that the newly-selected candidates were representative of all communities.

But the party lost a significant number of seats in Leicester East wards following the shake-up. Labour managed only 31 seats in the May local elections compared to 53 in 2019.

Rushey Mead, Belgrave, North Evington and Evington were previously Labour strongholds within the constituency. The areas had all-Labour councillors after the 2019 elections, but lost all seats to Conservative candidates this year.

At parliamentary level, current Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe was elected under Labour, but was expelled from the party in 2021 after her conviction for harassing Michelle Merritt, a friend of her boyfriend Lester Thomas, for more than 18 months.

Previous Labour MP for the constituency Keith Vaz, who served as an MP for 32 years, retired from parliament after being caught with male prostitutes and offering to get drugs for them. The city’s mayor, Labour’s Sir Peter Soulsby, told the LDRS the suspension had “been a long time coming.”

He said: “It has been very evident that in this constituency party, there were a number of concerns about the way in which it was operating and these were of course, exacerbated during the run up to the last city council election.

“It was clear the intervention the national party conducted more generally in Leicester was very much influenced by their concern about this particular constituency and its operation.

“Councillors, both Labour and in other parties, will continue to operate as effective representatives of the electorates during this time.

“I would be very surprised if anybody in the Labour party in Leicester will be in the slightest bit surprised at the news.

“The general feeling is the operation and the control of that party has been problematic for a number of years.”

He added: “I think it is a very healthy move.” A spokesperson for the East Leicester CLP said: “The regional Labour party suspended the local government committee of Leicester City this earlier this year. It then removed the right of all branches to choose their candidates for the elections in April across the city.

“This affected all three CLPs. As a result Labour lost 17 seats. No concerns were ever raised by the regional party.

“Many Labour CLPs are suspended in England – this is the method by which the national party takes control.

“It is undemocratic and wrong and taken from the Putin guide to politic.”

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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