Labour members walk out of selection meeting in protest at party’s treatment of blocked councillor

Three new faces picked for South Hampstead election contest

Thursday, 13th January — By Richard Osley

Leo Cassarani

Councillor Leo Cassarani

SEVERAL Labour members walked out of a candidate selection meeting in protest at the party’s record number of deselections.

They were angry that the sitting Swiss Cottage councillor Leo Cassarani has been blocked from putting his name forward to be a candidate again.

He was rejected largely on the basis that he had signed a demand for more scrutiny of a council land deal in King’s Cross.

Cllr Cassarani had wanted to defend his place on the council in the new South Hampstead ward – the closest thing to the current Swiss Cottage territory in the redrawn election map.

He had been part of the Labour team which ousted the Conservatives from the ward in 2018.

His ward colleagues Nayra Bello O’Shanahan and Simon Pearson are voluntarily standing down from the council at the elections in May.

Labour has thrown out Cllr Cassarani’s appeal and begun the process of picking new candidates.

A list of those who had been approved for selection has been circulated – with six current Labour councillors barred from standing again, a situation which has been characterised by critics as a “purge of the Left”.

Before Sunday’s meeting – held remotely via Zoom – began, a group of angry branch members read out a statement supporting Cllr Cassarani.

“This branch demands an immediate halt to the shortlisting and candidate selection process,” it said.

“We allege that the selection panel has not followed due process and that there has been no ward representation on the LCF [Labour Campaign Forum].

“We demand that nominations to the long list be reopened according to due process, and that all wards in the branch be represented on the LCF panel.”

These members then left the meeting and refused to take part in the voting process for new candidates.
Nina de Ayala Parker, Izzy Lenga and Will Prince were later confirmed as the names that will go on the ballot paper.

Cllr Cassarani said: “I feel deeply moved by the solidarity expressed by the local Labour Party members who refused to take part in this illegitimate selection process that has deprived them of the opportunity to reselect their sitting councillors.

“I fully support their demand, unanimously adopted by our Labour branch last week, that nominations be re-opened to give those unfairly excluded the chance to stand again.

“Our unprecedented victory in 2018 was entirely down to the hard work and dedication of our tireless members who gave up countless evenings and weekends to get us elected in such a tight seat that Labour hadn’t won in 20 years.

“Our members do not appreciate their campaigning efforts being taken for granted.”

Mike Katz from the LCF said last year: “If appeals haven’t been upheld it’s on the basis of strong evidence.

“This could be failure to abide by collective responsibility, letting down their constituents or struggling to carry out the role.

“No one should automatically expect to be a councillor if they don’t meet our requirements. We owe it to Camden residents to pick people who are passionate about representing them.”

Meanwhile, former Countdown contestant James Slater – he’s an “Octochamp” due to his repeat victories on the show – and former teacher Sylvia McNamara have been selected by Labour to stand in the new Kentish Town North ward.

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