IN FULL: Six Labour councillors including mayor toppled by party members in Luton
Luton's new mayor has been deselected by the local Labour Party just five days after her investiture ceremony, along with five other councillors.
Councillor Naseem Ayub, her husband, Mohammad, and Tahir Khan have all been deselected as Labour candidates to contest the local elections in Biscot ward next May.
A failure to confront community issues, such as tackling extremism and drug-related concerns, has sparked the decision, it has been claimed.
And three other Labour councillors have lost out in Saints ward, where Raja Saleem, Asma Rathore and Mohammed Riaz weren’t reselected.
“These councillors failed to provide a leadership role in their communities,” according to political activist Akbar Dad Khan, who chairs the community group Building Bridges.
“They would have been wiser to get down to the nitty-gritty of street cleanliness, young people’s behaviour, and in dealing with extremism,” he said.
“Right wing extremism is a menace. It needs to be confronted. You never heard any of them speak out in public, in the press or at public meetings.
“That’s not an example of leadership. This has been brewing up for the last five or six years. They are not only representatives of Muslim communities, but of all communities in their wards.”
The mayoral investiture ceremony for councillor Naseem Ayub only took place at the start of last week (Monday, June 18).
She replaced her husband in the role. But on Saturday (June 23) she missed out on reselection in two separate votes, the first for female nominees and the second a general candidate vote.
The new Biscot ward Labour candidates are another husband and wife pairing in Kashif Choudry and Saima Hussain, and Abid Hussain, who is no relation. In Saints ward the candidates are Summara Khurshid (Shahid), Javid Hussain and Gholam Javid.
Akbar Dad Khan isn’t ruling out further changes as other political wards in Luton look to choose candidates in the coming days.
“All these candidates have served several terms,” he said. “Perhaps they took it (selection) for granted. They never felt the need to talk to their constituents about issues in their respective wards.
“There’s been a lot of outcry about this non-functioning local democracy in these wards for a long time.
“People have written letters and gone to ask them for help, people have gone on the radio and spoken out,” he added.
“Perhaps they thought they would never be challenged.
“Now a group has emerged, over the past two years.
“I think it could change the scene of politics in Luton. This new lot are totally inexperienced, they are novices in the political sense.
“People were sick and tired of the sight of existing councillors who would be there for photo opportunities.
“But they have been totally negligent about seeing the streets and footpaths cleaned, and ensuring young people get the right kind of training from the community and their families,.
“Where there was rude behaviour to other members of the community they would never raise these matters with the police.”
He said he was told some people in wheelchairs were brought in for the selection process in Saints ward.
“Branch stacking must stop,” he explained. “People sign up to a party because their daughter or son want to contest the local elections.
“It’s an abuse of democracy to secure power and democratic influence.”
He called on the Labour Party to set up the criteria to become a candidate.
“A few people are not able to communicate well in English,” he said. “A language and knowledge test was introduced by Labour about five years ago. Many went through the process initially and failed. There’s complacency all round as to standards of democracy.”
In a statement, Luton South MP Gavin Shuker said: “It’s not something I can comment on with any authority.
“The parliamentary and local authority processes are entirely separate.”
But one-time Labour councillor and now Liberal Democrat leader in Luton David Franks said: “That’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s been for a long, long time.
“There’s a nuclear war going on. It goes on constantly. I wouldn’t want to work in that atmosphere.
“It’s most unpleasant. There are so many different factions,” he added.
“Some are driven by political elites, some by their own egos and some by personal issues. I don’t know why they put up with it.
The LN was due to meet some of the deselected Saints councillors yesterday. See an update on our website later today. The other councillors had not responded to our request for an interview before our deadline.