Sir Keir Starmer backs Labour's selection process which barred seven councillors from standing again

Leader says there is a 'buzz' about his party

Friday, 25th March — By Tom Foot

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Sir Keir Starmer joins Labour members at the party’s council election manifesto


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SIR Keir Starmer defended the deselection of councillors as he urged Labour members to use the upcoming council elections show the party is a “government in waiting”.

The party leader and MP for Holborn and St Pancras was at the Greenwood Centre in Kentish Town on Sunday as the party unveiled its manifesto pledges for Camden.

A new team shot was full of new faces, and follows a candidate selection process which saw seven existing councillors told they would be barred from the ballot paper this time.

It has been characterised as a “purge of the left” because most of those who were rejected had been supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

One of those affected – Leo Cassarani – said the local leadership only wanted ranks of “yes men” to be candidates. That quote was being used in Liberal Democrat election leaflets this week.


COUNCILLORS WHO APPLIED TO STAND AGAIN BUT WERE REJECTED BY PARTY AS CANDIDATES:
Leo Cassarani, Maryam Eslamdoust, Thomas Gardiner Simon Pearson, Roger Robinson, Ranjit Singh, Paul Tomlinson


But Mr Starmer said any suggestion Labour did not tolerate criticism from within was “not right” and dismissed any comparisons between the new team and an army of robots.

He told the New Journal: “Firstly with that [deselections] there was a process it was the same for everybody. It has been argued about in the letters page of the CNJ, which I read every week.

“There are lots of people in this room who have supported me on some things not on others, and that’s absolutely fine – that’s what I expect.”

He added: “The people here are not all of one mind – that is completely wrong. They are of one mind in delivering what’s best for Camden, and going on to deliver what’s best for the country.”

On the wider issue of party member suspensions, he said: “Most of those were to do with issues around antisemitism. I said I’d root it out, and I meant it. If people were surprised to see action, they shouldn’t have been.

“More recently it is on where we stand on Russian aggression and NATO. They are around really important issues about the identity of the Labour Party. I think it’s very important for Labour to be clear about what it stands for.”

With Labour polling well nationally and expected to retain control of the council in May, Mr Starmer said: “There’s a real buzz everywhere and it is not manufactured. It isn’t, that buzz was there in Scotland when I was there two weeks ago. That’s two years of hard work, since the last election. People are beginning to believe we can make it and form the next government.”

He added: “In terms of the whole party, what you need is something to unite around. We have set that out with massive £28billion climate investment pledge. With day one employment grants, which would sort out the P&O ferry issue. We are redefining affordable housing.

“There is more than enough for the whole party to unite around and therein lies the route for the Labour Party. “And also, who would want to deny opportunity to these candidates to become councillors?”

The launch had heard from young candidates including Nasrine Djemai who spoke about how she had been inspired to get into politics having grown up on the Regent’s Park estate surrounded by the nightmare of HS2 works.

Labour is in full support of HS2 nationally, but Mr Starmer said more could have been done to help residents on the estate by funding a point of contact for those with complaints.

Ms Djemai had in September been presented as a resident voice when speaking at a themed council meeting about the future of Euston.

Meanwhile, Nanouche Umeadi, originally from the Congo, told the room she had become a candidate after meeting Mr Starmer because their children go to the same school, later meeting council leader Georgia Gould at a party in Kentish Town.

“I met her for the first time and six months later, here I am. They set me up,” she said. “It’s really surreal as this was not on my to-do list”, adding: “I am tired of the government denying racial institutions exist. I’m tired of racial motivated attacks. I am tired of government not acknowledging school curriculum needs to be decolonised.

“I am tired of young black and Asian children being like second class citizens because those in power do not understand the challenges that affect them.”

Another candidate Peter Ptashko spoke about how his family are in the north-west of Kiev and invited a moment of silence in solidarity with “Ukraine where thousands of people have lost their lives”.

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