A senior figure in Birmingham’s black Christian community has lodged a complaint over the way Labour went about choosing a parliamentary candidate for Ladywood following claims that party rules were manipulated to ensure victory for Asian Muslim candidate Shabana Mahmood.
Bishop Joe Aldred, chairman of the Council of Black-Led Churches, said he was “very disappointed” that city councillor Yvonne Mosquito, a black Christian, failed to get the nomination to succeed Clare Short as Labour’s choice at the next General Election after 29 of her supporters were told they had not been party members long enough to vote at last Saturday’s selection meeting.
He has written to Labour officials in London expressing the concerns of the black churches and asking for an explanation.
Shabana Mahmood, who is the 27-year-old daughter of the chairman of Birmingham Labour Party, received 118 votes against 99 for Coun Mosquito.
If she is successful at the next election Ms Mahmood could become the country’s first female Muslim MP. But the selection result triggered an outburst from Coun Mosquito’s friends who accused Labour of rigging the process in a seat which has the second highest concentration of black voters of any UK constituency.
They were concerned at a decision by Labour’s National Executive Committee which prevented anyone from voting at the meeting who had not been a member of the Ladywood party for at least 18 months – a move which is reported to have tipped the balance in favour of Ms Mahmood.
It is also claimed that date by which postal votes had to be received was changed on several occasions in order to maximise last-minute support for Ms Mahmood, with at least three votes being faxed directly from Pakistan.
All of the allegations are firmly denied by Labour.
A party spokeswoman said the selection meeting was governed by long-standing Birmingham party rules which had not been changed in any way and there was “no merit or substance” to claims of bias against Coun Mosquito.
However, Bishop Aldred said: “Obviously I wish the person who has won well, but I and my colleagues at the Council of Black-Led Churches were very keen to see a black candidate for the Labour Party in Ladywood.
“There are certainly some concerns, I know, expressed by Yvonne in terms of the way the rules were used which excluded a significant number of new members who might have voted for her.
“I have written to the Labour Party raising concerns about the exclusion from voting of 29 people who have been members for over a year but not for 18 months. Yvonne realises that this might have damaged her chances.”
He has also written to Labour city council group leader Sir Albert Bore complaining about a decision a month before the selection meeting to remove Coun Mosquito from the high-profile position of vice-chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority.
Bishop Aldred said he believed a combination of bad publicity as a result of Coun Mosquito’s removal from the police authority and the decision to impose a minimum 18-month membership period for participation at the selection made it impossible for her to win.
He added: “What we are talking about here is ethnic representation in national and local politics. If there is any parliamentary seat that ought to select an African-Caribbean candidate then it is Ladywood.
“We are concerned that there are no African-Caribbean MPs outside of London but I know that there are a number of good people coming through and ready to stand and I am optimistic that the balance will be redressed.”