• Saturday, May 25, 2024


Sandwell’s Labour councillors protest their deselection

Members of Muslim and Sikh community protest alongside deselected councillors.

By: Rhi Storer

MEMBERS of the Muslim and Sikh community protested alongside deselected councillors this morning against the decision by Labour to remove councillors from their elected position in Sandwell.

It comes after four Labour councillors of Asian background did not pass selection panel interviews to stand again as Labour candidates and that the majority of Labour candidates chosen to contest these wards next year identify as BAME.

Up to 75 people, including three of the deselected councillors, attended a protest at Terry Duffy House, the headquarters of West Midlands Labour, against the decision.

Their names are Samiya Akhter (St Paul’s), Mustaq Hussain (Oldbury), Iqbal Padda Singh (Greets Green and Lyng), and Mohammad Rouf (Soho and Victoria), the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands.

One councillor, Samiya Akhter, sent a letter to David Evans, general secretary of the Labour party, accusing Labour’s selection process as being “institutionally racist”, and believed the party allowed “discriminatory practices”.

Cllr Akhter claimed the Labour party has replaced “every single Muslim councillor” in Sandwell up for re-election and alleged, “not a single person of a non-minority was deselected apart from Muslims or Sikhs”.

Standing outside with protesters, Cllr Akhter, who works as a nurse, said it was a “ruthless decision” for the National Executive Committee – the governing body of the Labour party – to deselect her.

“Last Thursday [November 11] I received my interview feedback, and it was absolutely ruthless towards me. I’ve been a sitting councillor for the Labour party in St Paul’s ward for the last four years, so you’re telling me that in the interview I was unsuccessful? Wasn’t I a great councillor then?

“Being from a Muslim and Pakistani background, I don’t see why they have differentiated against me. So I utterly see this as a racial attack personally towards myself.

“This isn’t the time to stay quiet – we need to speak up.”

Adrian Bailey, the former MP for West Bromwich West, said the response from the national Labour party is “reminiscent” of the responses by Yorkshire cricket club, who have been rocked by racism scandals.

He said: “It was just 21 years ago yesterday [November 23], that I was first elected as a member of parliament for West Bromwich West. It was the proudest day of my life.

“Little did I think, that in 21 years’ time, I would be standing outside [Terry Duffy House] to fight discrimination, to fight racism, not against the Conservatives, or other groups within our communities, but against the Labour party.”

To shouts of “shame on them” and “no racism in Sandwell”, Bailey claimed the deselections were not in relation to ex-council leader Mahboob Hussain, who was suspended from the Labour party this year over alleged land deals.

He said: “This has absolutely nothing to do with Mahboob Hussain. Most of the councillors who were affected weren’t even around when Cllr Hussain was leader of Sandwell council.

“It is actually about a very personal agenda, driven through by the National Executive Committee without regard to local opinion and local sensitivities.

“I believe we have, in Sandwell council, enough young councillors who want to work together to heal the wounds of a few years ago, but the decisions of the National Executive Committee are dividing and not uniting them.”

Bailey claims he has written to Sir Keir Starmer twice this year regarding the situation in Sandwell, and said the Labour leader needs to “get a grip” on the National Executive Committee, or face another defeat in West Bromwich West and West Bromwich East constituencies.

Both Cllrs Singh and Akhter attempted to deliver their letters of complaints to the headquarters – but no one from West Midlands Labour was there to open the door.

Labour is yet to publish a full list of 24 candidates to contest the May 2022 elections, although a number of former councillors are understood to have been selected.

They include Bill Gavan, who quit the party in November 2019 and tried to join the Conservatives in 2020, but was unsuccessful. Julie Webb, who was expelled in 2019, has also been rumoured to be selected.

Meanwhile Labour sources say next week’s leadership election could end up being a one-horse race.

Cllr Kerrie Carmichael (Blackheath) – who lost out to Singh in May’s leadership contest – is the strong favourite to win, with Cllr Simon Hackett (Friar Park) lined up to serve as her deputy.

Current interim leader Cllr Maria Crompton (Tividale) is said to be undecided over whether to stand for the position.

Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson revealed the government may launch an investigation into the running of Sandwell council, while Jacob Rees-Mogg referred to the authority as a “totalitarian communist state”.

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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