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Dramatic turn in selection contest

BAME Labour chair Ahmed Shahzad is one of three Black hopefuls in Leyton

The contest to become Labour’s candidate in the east London seat of Leyton and Wanstead took a dramatic turn last night when one of the front-runners – Patrick Vernon – failed to make the shortlist.

Terry Paul, a former chair of West Ham’s local Labour party, did make it through to the final six.

Ahmed Shahzad, a businessman and chair of BAME Labour, which represents Black party members (above) is also through and will surely be in the running when the result is declared on 27th February.

So too is Rokhsana Fiaz, director of race and faith think-tank the Change Institute, who lives nearby in Forest Gate. Fiaz, 38, was awarded an OBE last year for her equalities work.

The remaining three hopefuls also appear to be strong candidates. John Cryer, the left-wing former MP for Hornchurch, is aiming to get back into parliament after losing his seat at the last general election.

TV historian Tristram Hunt is seen as a favourite of Labour’s high command. The final candidate is Sophie Linden, an ex-Hackney councillor and special adviser to the former Home Secretary David Blunkett.

We reported yesterday that Afzal Akram and Patrick Edwards were in the frame, but like Vernon they failed to make the final shortlist.

The fact that Vernon did not make the final stage of the contest will come as a shock to some in the party, who saw the Hackney councillor as a strong contender.

Black party activists will be keeping a close keeping on the Leyton selection, especially after the equally diverse neighbouring seat of Walthamstow was won by Stella Creasy, who beat a number of Black hopefuls to secure the nomination.

The heat will also be on Labour because the Conservatives are continuing to select BME candidates in safe or winnable seats, and may end up with more MPs of colour after the election than Labour, which has traditionally been seen as the natural home for Black voters.

In a departure from other selection contests, Leyton and Wanstead is being run entirely as a postal ballot of party members without the usual final hustings meeting, where wannabe candidates speak and answer questions before a vote.

The selection process is being overseen by Tom Watson MP, a close ally of the Prime Minister.



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