Anger as former Labour councillor is axed from bid to become MP
Complaints traced back to Holborn and St Pancras CLP meetings
07 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Sally Gimson in Bassetlaw
TENSIONS within Labour’s campaign exploded yesterday (Wednesday) when a former councillor was axed from her role as a parliamentary candidate just a week into her election campaign. Sally Gimson, who lives in Gospel Oak, said she was consulting lawyers over the order from Labour’s National Executive Committee to remove her from the ballot paper in Bassetlaw.
The move followed complaints about her conduct at past Holborn and St Pancras constituency meetings, which have become notorious for arguments between warring factions and a bad atmosphere. She has strenuously denied all of the claims. which she said were “vague” and part of a “smear campaign”.
Asked at his campaign launch on Saturday how Labour could fight an election while CLPs like Holborn and St Pancras seemed to be hampered by infighting, Sir Keir Starmer said everybody would swing together. “As soon as an election is called, something profound happens in the Labour Party and people massively pull together,” he said.
But Ms Gimson’s critics, reportedly including at least one elected councillor, had already contacted Labour’s national organisers. One particular boisterous meeting saw cross words among members over how Mr Starmer was being re-selected, even though there was never any real prospect that he would face a trigger ballot. Insiders said doors were held shut and shouting was heard.
Given the 160-miles distance from her home and her pro-EU views – Bassetlaw is a leave- voting constituency – Ms Gimson had been a surprise pick amid local claims of a “stitch-up”. She said she had won the selection fair and square by talking and listening to members about their concerns.
Mr Starmer had publicly endorsed her for the candidacy. One Labour Party figure in its higher echelons said work was going on behind the scenes to try and get the decision reversed, with attempts to reach leader Jeremy Corbyn. “The people who have made these complaints are playing havoc with other people’s lives,” they said. “We should not be driving women out of politics like this.” Several local prominent members said they were dismayed to think people in Camden had “set out to derail a Labour candidate”.
Others said rules had to apply to everyone and that only those at the meeting knew how badly they had been run. Some members of the Holborn and St Pancras CLP, including its chair Sagal Abdi-Wali, had been urging people to donate to Ms Gimson’s campaign and travelled up at the weekend for canvassing.
In a statement, the Holborn and St Pancras CLP said: “At no point was the CLP contacted by the NEC regarding these complaints and there has never been any prima facie evidence provided to the CLP that would warrant any formal investigation into Sally Gimson’s conduct at any of our meetings.” The Bassetlaw CLP also offered Ms Gimson’s support.
The seat is a target for the Tories on December 12. The national party said it did not comment on selections.