A Birmingham Labour MP has demanded a rethink of selection rules which gave grass-roots members a short-list of one candidate for a council by-election.
Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood has waded into the selection row in which his assistant, and former girlfriend, Elaina Cohen failed to make the short-list.
Earlier this week Ms Cohen alleged she was told by former Lord Mayor Mahmood Hussain, the leading figure in the Handsworth Labour Party, she was unsuitable for selection because she was white and Jewish, and has lodged formal complaints with the party and Birmingham City Council. Coun Hussain strongly denies the allegation.
Rank-and-file members in the East Handsworth and Lozells branch were presented with just one candidate, school teacher Hendrina Quinnen, to contest a local election June 4. She was selected by an ‘almost unanimous’ vote, according to party bosses.
It has now emerged that after announcing a women-only short-list, just three female applicants came forward. These were whittled down to one by a private selection panel of nine local party officials, including Coun Hussain.
The rules were drawn up to manage by-elections where sometimes a dozen candidates apply.
Mr Mahmood said: “These rules were clearly not designed to produce short-lists of one. The two women who missed out were both very capable and well- known to local Labour Party members.”
As well as Ms Cohen, who is active in the community, the other applicant to miss out was local Labour official Camille Ade-John.
Mr Mahmood continued: “All three were suitable candidates and should have gone forward to the members for a decision. The selection panel was not needed.”
His view was echoed by Ms Cohen, who added: “I am disappointed the regional organiser felt this was right. Common sense should have prevailed. All three should have been put to members.”
She stressed that her formal complaint was not about the selection, but the conduct of Coun Hussain.
Regional Labour Party spokesman Ian Reilly said the contest was carried out in line with by-election rules. “There was a short-list of one and she had the almost unanimous support of members.”
East Handsworth and Lozells branch chairman Qativ Ali said: “We had a short-list of one and we were happy with the candidate. There was no complaint at the time.”