Behind the scenes

Labour Left accuses party of mayoral ‘stitch-up’

 Corbynite candidate excluded from newly relaunched selection race in Liverpool

The Labour leadership has been accused of a “stitch-up” after ditching a Jeremy Corbyn-endorsed candidate from the ballot to choose who will run to become the next mayor of Liverpool.

The Liverpool Echo says the search for Labour’s mayoral candidate “was supposed to present a fresh start” for the city’s party, which is “still reeling from the arrest of Mayor Joe Anderson and a subsequent government investigation into the council's dealings”.

Yet “it has been anything but”, the paper reports, amid a growing row following a brief suspension last week of the selection process. After interviewing the three previously shortlisted candidates last Friday, the party has now reopened the application process just days before ballots were due to go to party members.

And in a footnote of the statement announcing the decision, the party says that “no previous candidate will be invited to reapply”.

 The all-female shortlist included local councillor Anna Rothery, who has been endorsed by former Labour leader Corbyn. After being booted out of the contest, Rothery told LabourList that she welcomed the decision “to include more scrutiny of candidates” but “not to remove transparency and accountability from the process”.

“I hope party HQ sees the outrage its decision has caused across our city and the harm it is doing to our party’s reputation and changes course,” she added. “If the decision stands then I will be left with no choice but to challenge it legally.”

Meanwhile, a Labour source told the Liverpool Echo that the mayoral campaign was in “complete chaos”, while another said the party would be be “rudderless” heading into the election in May.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum said that “removing candidates with no explanation smells like a stitch-up to keep left candidates off the ballot”. The row marks “another bad day for democracy within the Labour Party”, the spokesperson added.

Close Corbyn ally and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted that the “fiasco leaves the Labour bureaucracy wide open to charges of sheer incompetence or a political stitch-up or both. If there was a problem with any candidate it should have been dealt with earlier or is the problem the socialism of a possible winner?” 

The Liverpool Echo points out that “all three shortlisted candidates are and have been city councillors for some time and this is a city council in turmoil - so it may well be that the party wants to find someone without links to the authority”.

But on the other hand, the paper adds, “why approve the shortlist in the first place?”

According to LabourList, “party sources have suggested that the reasons for restarting the selection in this way are linked to serious issues around Liverpool corruption investigations”.

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