Diane Abbott accuses Labour of ‘leftwing cull’ after two fellow MPs barred from standing

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Diane Abbott has accused Labour of carrying out a “cull of leftwingers” after she and others were blocked or dissuaded from standing for the party.

The veteran Labour MP vowed on Wednesday to stay on for “as long as it is possible” after a deal for her to retire from parliament broke down.

The row, which has angered and frustrated some Labour MPs and staff, escalated on Thursday after two leftwing candidates were blocked from standing for the party in the general election.

Faiza Shaheen, who had been Labour’s candidate in Chingford and Woodford Green, told BBC Two’s Newsnight she received an email telling her she had been deselected after the decision was first made public in the Times.

Responding to the news on X, Abbott said: “Appalling. Whose clever idea has it been to have a cull of left wingers?”

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown, announced he had been suspended from the party on Wednesday afternoon and would not be allowed to stand for Labour at the election.

On Thursday morning, Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, denied that it was a factional issue. Asked on Times Radio where Labour was purging the left, he said: “I don’t think that’s true. I mean, there are many colleagues of mine in the parliamentary Labour party who would define themselves as being on the left who are endorsed Labour party candidates standing in their constituency.

“All this is, is that because a snap election has been called, there were a number of outstanding issues with some MPs, obviously retiring MPs in some constituencies where we’ve needed to fill candidates at pace in order to hit the election timetable. And that’s the process that’s unfolding this week.”

Several people from Starmer’s inner circle, including the director of the influential Labour Together thinktank, Josh Simons, and members of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC), have been installed in safe Labour seats ahead of the legal deadline for parliamentary candidate nominations next week.

Asked about Abbott’s status Jones told Sky News: “She had the whip given back to her. She’s back in the Labour party as a Labour MP. And as far as I’m aware no decision’s been taken about whether she’ll be the candidate or not.”

He refused to say whether Abbott should be allowed to stand for Labour, telling Sky: “If that’s her decision then I respect her decision. It’s for the Labour party and Diane to conclude.”

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On Wednesday, Starmer was forced to deny that Abbott had been barred from standing as a Labour MP after the Times reported this was the case. She was quietly restored to the Labour whip this week and had been preparing to make a statement that she would retire at the forthcoming election.

The Guardian has been told that Abbott received a letter from the Labour chief whip, Alan Campbell, confirming the whip had been restored and reassuring her that she could make what was described as a “dignified exit”. She was also said to have had a meeting with Starmer’s political director about the agreement on Wednesday morning. She feels the Labour leadership has gone back on their deal with her after it was reported that she had been blocked.

Mish Rahman, a leftwing member of Labour’s national executive committee, said Starmer was “hiding behind technicalities” and that he commanded a majority on the group.

“He’s been hiding behind the independent process technicality for a while when actually, as we’ve now discovered, the independent process ended in December. Now he’s hiding behind the NEC,” he told Times Radio.

“So when Keir Starmer says, ‘Oh, the NEC will decide’, at the end of the day, it’s more lawyer talk. It’s him and his action which will actually decide whether Diane Abbott is a Labour MP or not.”

Source: theguardian.com

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