‘It was an abuse of democracy’ claim Luton councillors after deselection by Labour Party members

Cllrs Asma Rathore, Mohammed Riaz, Raja Saleem
Cllrs Asma Rathore, Mohammed Riaz, Raja Saleem

Three deselected Luton borough councillors say they are “considering their options” after losing a vote to contest next May’s local elections for the Labour Party.

Former mayors councillor Raja Saleem and Cllr Mohammed Riaz, as well as ex-deputy mayor councillor Asma Rathore weren’t chosen to represent Saints ward.

The three successful candidates were Summara Khurshid (Shahid), Javid Hussain and Ghulam Javid.

In a similar move, new Luton mayor Cllr Naseem Ayub, her husband Cllr Mohammad Ayub, and Cllr Tahir Khan were deselected by Labour Party members in Biscot ward.

Describing his reaction on losing the vote, Cllr Saleem said: “I was really disappointed because people were bullied and nobody explained the procedure.”

Cllr Rathore called it “a setback” and that they would “try hard if reselected again”. She said: “It will have an impact on all the wards. There was no agenda for the meeting through the post, and no procedure laid out.”

Cllr Riaz described himself as “a proud Lutonian” and “proud to have served all the community,” which he’s represented for more than 23 years.

He said: “We asked for a re-run but we were told it won’t happen. We have served the people of Saints with pride and dignity. We are still around to serve the people. It’s our town, and we will do what we can for the betterment of the town.

“It was an abuse of democracy. People were using other Labour Party members’ cards.”

Cllr Saleem said the new candidates were originally Liberal Democrats and joined Labour as the only party likely to make them councillors.

“One candidate was out of the country for the last three years, and lives in Central Bedfordshire, rather than the borough of Luton.”

He referred to membership stacking, a process by which family members and friends are encouraged to support a political candidate.

“We highlighted this to the right people, but it fell on deaf ears,” he said. “They don’t want to resolve the problems.

“A free and democratic system which we follow here is the right one. When it’s not done legally that is where the problem lies.

“We aren’t angry, we’re not desperate,” he added. “We just want to make our point known.”

Cllr Riaz said it was “too early to say” if the three of them would still stand for election in Saints ward next year.

There remains the option of contesting other wards in the town in May, if they chose to do so and are selected by local Labour Party members.

Labour candidates for the Dallow ward are due to be chosen this weekend.

Cllr Saleem said: “There is an appeal process, but we’re not being listened to.”

Suggestions that the three Saints’ ward councillors were failing to do their jobs effectively were rebuffed.

Cllr Riaz said their influence has suffered because of cuts in the local authority budget.

And Cllr Saleem said they were given three minutes to speak and three minutes to answer party members’ questions.

“None of the issues you put to us about cleanliness in the town, drug-related problems locally, and tackling extremism, were the ones highlighted in that time.”

The East of England Labour Party has yet to respond for a comment.