A former Young Councillor of the Year was deselected by the Labour party at a Dallow ward meeting yesterday.
The deselection of Tafheen Sharif, who is also Beds Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, comes days after allegations that some members of the Luton Labour party have been rigging the selection process.
In the first selection meeting prior to the 2015 elections, Labour Councillor Robin Harris was deselected and consequently quit, triggering a by-election for the Farley ward which will be held in March.
Beds PCC Olly Martins said: “To me Taf’s de-selection, coupled with that of former finance chief Robin Harris highlights there is a problem with our internal party democracy. Candidates are getting selected on the basis of who can round up the most votes from family members and associates rather than on merit, and it stinks.
“The people of Luton have placed a great deal of faith in the Labour Party, electing the only two Labour MPs in the eastern region and a strongly Labour council. We cannot allow that faith to be taken for granted by acquiescing in the town being treated as though it is a 21st century rotten borough.”
Councillor Yaquib Hani told the BBC on Friday he was worried about the so-called ‘membership stacking’ where people join the party en mass, sometimes without their knowledge, in order to influence the ward’s selection meeting.
Some wards, such as Saints, have more than 500 Labour party members, which is what would usually be expected for an entire constituency.
People who are signed up to the party can then attend the selection meetings and influence the decision.
An East of England Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party is determined to ensure that every Labour candidate is selected in an open, transparent and fair way. We are satisfied that all our selections are being carried out properly and any suggestions otherwise are wrong.”
Mr Martins said: “Taf has recently taken strong leadership, organised and led on a drug action day and a local employment fair, as part of tackling two of the big issues that affect her local community, anti-social behaviour and criminality associated with drug dealing, and youth unemployment.
“Taf was also nationally recognised as Young Councillor of the Year 2012, the only time a Luton councillor has received this accolade. So the residents of Dallow ward will today be scratching their heads wondering why on earth their young, dynamic and independently-minded councillor has been unceremoniously dumped by local Labour Party members.”
Deputy Leader of Luton Borough Council Sian Timoney denounced the “fuss and outcry” over the latest selection meetings.
The Labour councillor for Farley said: “Three things to say about selection processes. One, it is a shame when sitting councillors lose their seat but it happens at every election. Two, if there is any member fraud then clearly that’s wrong and should be stopped but evidence obviously needed. And three, why did we not hear such a fuss and outcry when two good sitting councillors were deselected in High Town at last election? Weird.”
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