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Black candidate beaten by Black votes

Shahzad's supporters backed John Cryer over African Caribbean rival

Labour activists were left reeling yesterday after a Black candidate, Terry Paul (below), narrowly failed to win a nomination in a multicultural seat, after supporters of a Black rival failed to back him.

The prize of becoming the party’s general election candidate in the safe seat of Leyton and Wanstead was denied to Paul because supporters of the third-placed hopeful, Ahmed Shahzad (pictured above), voted for former MP John Cryer.

Shahzad is chairman of BAME Labour, the organisation that represents Black party members and campaigns for greater Black political representation.

Terry Paul: missed out on being MP

Shahzad’s supporters proved decisive in sealing the win for Cryer, provoking dismay among supporters of Paul who had won substantial backing among a cross section of rank and file party members, but significantly failed to win the second preference vote of Shahzad’s supporters, who were mostly of Asian origin.

The result casts a further cloud over Labour’s efforts to increase BME representation in Westminster. As the party who have traditionally harvested a loyal vote from Black communities, Labour are now in danger of being overtaken by the Conservatives, who could have as many as 16 black and Asian MPs at the next general election.

Paul, former chairman of the West Ham Labour Party who is African-Caribbean, was unavailable for comment, but some party members questioned how Shahzad – who is elected to represent BME members – could keep his position as head of BAME Labour while his followers actively prevented a Black man winning the seat.

One party member, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace. Totally shameful. He [Shahzad] has got his position in the party as a result of representing Black members, and what does he do? He stops a good quality Black person becoming an MP. I think his position as head of BAME Labour is now untenable.’

The Labour contest to replace retiring MP Harry Cohen was mired in controversy from the start, as a hotly-tipped frontrunner, Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon, did not make onto the final shortlist. Insiders had tipped Vernon as a strong contender who stood a good chance of winning the race.

Tom Watson MP, a confidante of the Prime Minister, ran the Leyton and Wanstead contest in which local ‘branches’ were denied the ability to nominate candidates.

Shahzad, in third place after other candidates had been eliminated, had secured 80 votes but only seven of these had used their second preference vote. All seven went to Cryer.

One party insider said: ‘If Shahzad’s supporters had used the process, Terry Paul would have easily beaten Cryer.’

Labour’s failure to select a Black candidate in the urban east London seat of Leyton contrasts with Tory success in picking BME candidates in the Shires, with the likes of Sam Gyimah, Kwame Kwarteng, Sajid Javid, Helen Grant, Priti Patel and Wilfred Emmanuel Jones all in with a strong chance of getting elected to constituencies with a very small BME population.

There was further woe for Labour on the Black representation front this weekend as Jack Dromey, husband of equalities minister Harriet Harman, beat Ansar Ali Khan and Gurdial Singh Atwal to become the candidate for Birmingham Erdington.




6 Responses

  1. I think this shows the differences between Tory and Labour on the selection of British Black and British Asian candidates.

    In the Tory party, we’ve selected candidates from ethnic minorities on merit, without the need for shortlists and without the need for candidates to rely on a bloc vote of people of a similar ethnic background to out-vote their opponents.

    If Cryer won the vote fair and square, well done to him. It’s an insult to Terry Paul to suggest that he could only win based on a racially-motivated vote. I know our MPs and future MPs like Adam Afriye and Kwasi Kwarteng have said that if they were only selected based on the colour of their skin, they wouldn’t feel able to hold themselves up as an equal of other MPs.

  2. Havig been present at the selection for Sam Gyimah – the Conservative candidate for East Surrey – I saw first hand how a room of around 250 local party activists (of whom only one or two including myself were not white) voted in our next MP. We voted based on the merits of candidates individual statements. All were good and hopefully will go on to great things. However, Sam won the selection process through making the best case. It really was as simple as that. We had no need for a quota system. Sam was selected over a local Surrey councillor with many years of experiece. Common sense and meritocracy won the day.

    Cllr Imran Khan
    Reigate and Banstead Borough Council

    (Moderator: please can you delete repeat post prior to this)

  3. I don’t remember Terry Paul caring about advancing the cause of Black parliamentary representation in 2005 when he actively worked against Dawn Butler in the West Ham parliamentary selection. What an extremely short memory his supporters have.

  4. In response to West Ham. 11:31

    Although I’m not in any way speaking for Terry, I would think that his despair about the West Ham selection was that it was an all women short list there by excluding some really good male BME candidates.

    And lets be honest, the eventual outcome of that selection process was never in doubt.

  5. Matt, what are your views on recent news that the Tory party have being seeking to achieve representation by stealth? Link: http://tr.im/QfhN

    Doesn’t that somewhat undermine the claim that the selection outcomes are purely meritocratic?

  6. “Matt Woods, on February 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm Said:
    It’s an insult to Terry Paul to suggest that he could only win based on a racially-motivated vote.”

    I don’t go out of my way to agree with Tories, but I know Terry Paul and you couldn’t be more right. Practice equal opportunities, not tokenism!

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