‘Appalling cull’: Britain’s Labour bars another left-winger from election

Critics accuse party of conducting a purge of left-wingers, as Faiza Shaheen deselected over social media posts.

Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen for Chingford and Woodford at Green Waltham Forest Town Hall
Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen for Chingford and Woodford Green reacts after losing in Britain's general election in Waltham Forest Town Hall, Walthamstow, Britain, on December 13, 2019 [John Sibley/Reuters]

Britain’s Labour Party has barred prominent left-winger Faiza Shaheen as a candidate in the upcoming election after she allegedly liked social media posts that raised questions about her suitability to run, most notably one allegedly downplaying anti-Semitism.

Shaheen told the BBC programme Newsnight on Wednesday that the party’s National Executive Committee had emailed her that evening to remove her as a candidate for the Chingford and Woodford Green seat in northeast London, having previously questioned her about 14 social media posts.

The programme highlighted one post in particular, which referenced a Jon Stewart sketch on freedom of expression in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Shaheen had liked the post, prompting the Jewish Labour Movement to complain its members were “concerned” about the “tone” of the Labour candidate’s social media posts in a quote read out on air.

The offending post, published on X, read: “Every time you say something even mildly critical of Israel, you’re immediately assailed by scores of hysterical people who explain to you why you’re completely wrong, how you’re biased against Israel.”

“Moreover, you can’t easily ignore them because those are not just random people. They tend to be friends or people who move in the same circles as you. Those people are mobilised by professional organisations,” it added.

Shaheen responded that she could not remember liking the post.

“I know what’s wrong with it, the line that’s there about the … you know … they’re ‘in professional organisations’. It plays into a trope, and I absolutely don’t agree with that and I’m sorry about that,” Shaheen said.

The party, she said, had informed her of her deselection after briefing the press. Among the 14 social media posts, the party had also taken issue with content relating to her experiences of Islamophobia in the party.

“Like, how am I not allowed to talk about my experiences of Islamophobia and the double standards that I’ve seen?” she said.

The Labour Muslim Network said on X that Shaheen’s deselection was “unacceptable”.

Labour’s election campaign has been overshadowed by internal chaos over selections for the July 4 election, causing observers to question whether the party is conducting a purge of left-wingers.

On Wednesday, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, representing Brighton Kemptown, was suspended over what he claimed was “a vexatious and politically motivated complaint”.

And doubts have been raised over the candidacy of Apsana Begum, who is supposed to be standing again for the Poplar and Limehouse constituency.

Referencing Shaheen’s deselection, Labour’s Diane Abbott – Britain’s first Black female lawmaker – accused Keir Starmer of an “appalling” cull of left-wingers in a post on X on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Abbott had herself claimed Labour had not allowed her to defend her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat in the election despite lifting a suspension that was enacted last year due to her comments on racism.

The lawmaker had been reinstated as a Labour MP on Tuesday after the completion of a party investigation into comments she had made in a letter to The Observer newspaper, stating that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice”, but do not face racism “all their lives”.

However, Labour leader Keir Starmer later denied the claim, saying “no decision” had been taken to bar the left-winger, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn who led the party from 2015 to 2020.

Under Corbyn’s leadership, the party was investigated by the equalities watchdog, which found serious failings in the way the party had tackled anti-Semitism.

Corbyn was replaced as party leader by Keir Starmer, who has sought to crack down on the claimed anti-Semitism.

Corbyn is also barred from running as a Labour candidate after he said anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated” for political reasons.

Last week, he announced that he would run as an independent candidate.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies