Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito has narrowly lost a battle to succeed Clare Short as Labour candidate for Ladywood at the next General Election amid claims that more than 30 of her supporters were barred from voting at the selection meeting.
Councillor Mosquito received 99 votes against 118 for Shabana Mahmood, who was declared the winner in the weekend poll.
But friends of Coun Mosquito immediately hit back, accusing Labour’s National Executive Committee of changing selection rules in an attempt to disadvantage her supporters in the black community and to favour Ms Mahmood’s Asian backers.
It was claimed the “normal” practice imposing a 12-month cut-off period preventing anyone from voting who has not been a member of the local party for at least a year was strengthened to 18 months – effectively disenfranchising between 30 and 40 people who joined the Ladywood party specifically to vote for Coun Mosquito.
A decision to accept postal ballots up until the selection took place has also been criticised.
One Labour member who was at the meeting told The Birmingham Post that 35 postal votes were received between last Wednesday and Saturday.
A close friend of Coun Mosquito, who declined to be named, said: “This is the final straw. The Labour Party is bending over backwards to please Muslims at the expense of the church-going Christian community and now also at the expense of the African Caribbean community and is manipulating party rules in order to do so.”
Labour officials hit back strongly, insisting the strongest possible checks were conducted to verify postal votes and there was nothing unusual about the cut-off period for participation at the selection meeting.
Labour insisted Coun Mosquito’s supporters “misunderstood” existing regulations.
Birmingham Labour Party operates a 12-month cut-off period for participation at selection meetings, from a “freeze date” imposed by the NEC.
The freeze date in this case was triggered in October 2007 when it became clear Ms Short was not going to be a Labour candidate at the next election. That meant anyone voting at Saturday’s selection meeting had to have been a Labour member in Ladywood before October 2006.
A Labour spokeswoman said: “There is no merit or substance to these allegations. The candidates were asked on June 5 to inform regional director Ian Reilly if they had any complaints regarding the selection process. They were asked to do this before the start of the selection meeting on Saturday. All of the candidates prior to the result supported the process.”
Shabana Mahmood, a 27-year-old barrister, is the daughter of Birmingham Labour Party chairman Mahmood Ahmed.
Labour’s majority in Ladywood at the 2005 election was 6,801.