Coventry Labor MPs Taiwo Owatemi and Zarah Sultana are at risk of deselection, according to a BBC report today. Both are young women from ethnic minorities; both were first elected in 2019; both were selected from shortlisted members they were mired in local “binding” allegations by the Labor governing body. All these factors fuel the question: Are these two MPs really in danger?
Taiwo Owatemi is a shadow minister aligned with the current leadership. The rose of the two from which it was chosen members should have weighed against her, but they defied expectations by rebelling and choosing the non-local candidate. So while there have been cries of mending on the seat, she cannot be described as a leadership imposed candidate under Jeremy Corbyn.
Sources say she has a good relationship with her local party, which is small and not particularly factional, and those close to her were surprised by the BBC’s report. Owatemi told the BBC that he “would lie a lot to continue” in his role as MP and fully intends “to remain as a Labor parliamentary candidate in the next general election”.
Zarah Sultana is a former community organizer and a staunchly Corbyn Labor MP who has been a vocal critic of Keir Starmer’s leadership. While sources close to her claim that she has good relationships with people from all over her local party, it is known that some members are not that friendly, even if “this is true in every CLP and it doesn’t always generate a BBC article”, one She said. There is a particular resentment when talking about her which is triggered now because she has recently suffered a bereavement and, more generally, because she regularly receives Islamophobic abuse, which she has talked about emotionally in parliament.
Anger was expressed by the Muslim Labor Network on reports that Sultana (as well as another young, female, Muslim Labor MP Apsana started) could be deselected, with the group stressing that objections to its policy – such as its opposition to the Prevent strategy and criticism of the police – relate to issues of racism. It is worth noting both that there has been a trend in which female MPs have been disproportionately activated and that BAME, which has been evident in 2019, and that there are concerns about a particular problem Islamophobia within the workplace right now.
However, local dynamics are probably not the most important consideration. The crucial question is Change to the rule of job triggering votes at the September conference. Proposed by the leadership, it overturned the Corbyn-era reform that made it easier for a deputy to be activated and raised the threshold to initiate a full selection process. Instead of requiring a third of both parties or affiliated branches to vote for the activation of the incumbent Labor MP, the rules now require that at least 50% of a constituency made up of affiliated parties and branches (each weighted to 50 %) votes in favor of activating the parliamentarian. Unions usually agree not to start fierce deselection battles. This makes the new threshold a high level to be met.
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