Fears raised over ‘unfit’ Labour candidates ahead of possible election

Fears raised over ‘unfit’ Labour candidates ahead of possible election

MP Ruth Smeeth worries a number of possible candidates could be 'completely unfit' as the party was plunged into a new row this week

Shortlisted candidate Aysha Raza questioned the removal of Mear One's mural in 2012
Shortlisted candidate Aysha Raza questioned the removal of Mear One's mural in 2012

Fears have been expressed that candidates accused of making antisemitic comments could be selected as potential Labour parliamentary candidates at the next general election.

The party was plunged into a fresh row this week after questions were raised over some potential candidates’ social media histories.

One was shortlisted for a seat, while another was considered by his local party before due diligence checks were carried out.

Added to the shortlist for Ealing North, councillor Aysha Raza was previously referred by Labour Against Antisemitism after appearing to question the removal in 2012 of the controversial mural painted by graffiti artist Mear One, which depicts hook-nosed bankers playing a game of Monopoly on the backs of workers.

In 2012,  she wrote:  “Controversial mural  in the East  End  being painted over for being depicted antisemitic! #OneRuleForYou&AnotherForUs and #FreeSpeech.”

In 2013, she tweeted that she had been “traumatised by the hours spent in that Zionist shop” after buying a suit.

Raza remains on the shortlist at the time of going to press.

Speaking to Buzzfeed News on Tuesday, she apologised “for any hurt my words caused” and revealed she had undertaken antisemitism training with the Jewish Labour Movement.

Elsewhere, Luke Cresswell, an ex-councillor previously referred to Labour over allegations of antisemitism, was considered by his local party as a possible candidate – but did not progress further after diligence checks centrally. He was suspended in 2016 and later reinstated after sharing an image of a blood-soaked Star of David and appearing to compare Israel to Nazi Germany on social media.

Luke Cresswell and the posts he’d shared

Cresswell apologised for the posts, saying: “I made mistakes in what I have said in the past and, of course, I regret these. It has never been my intention to offend or hurt anyone and I am sorry if my insensitive remarks have done so.”

This comes after Labour announced last month a new “fast-track selection process” for new candidates, amid growing speculation that a general election could be imminent.

The process rolled out in key seats gives responsibility of drawing up a longlist of candidates to the party’s ruling body, which is then presented to a panel comprising national executive committee (NEC) members and both regional and local figures for shortlisting.

Ruth Smeeth, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, speculated on Thursday that a number of candidates “completely unfit to represent any political party, never-mind the Labour Party in electoral office” could make short lists.

“We will be able to fully assess when the shortlists have been done, but someone is not doing their job properly.”

She accused Labour of “failing miserably to do appropriate background checks on candidates,” adding: “This is horrifying and it’s either complete incompetence or it’s being intentionally done. This is a national thing, not a local thing.”

A spokesperson for the Jewish Leadership Council added: “It’s impossible to put a number on candidates with problematic histories that we don’t know about.”

The Jewish Labour Movement joined the chorus of criticism, with a spokesperson saying: “We warned the party for years against its weak-willed approach to tackling antisemitism.

“Scores of individuals with deeply troubling views have been admitted. On countless occasions they have failed to discipline those who espouse hateful rhetoric. It is no surprise the party seem incapable of doing due diligence.”

Responding to Smeeth’s comments, a Labour Party source said: “This is categorically untrue. Staff are working incredibly hard to complete due diligence checks on thousands of applications across the country.

“Ultimately all candidates who are selected by their local party will ultimately need to be endorsed by the NEC.”

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