Stir among Labour activists as GMB's Sarah Owen 'forced in' as Luton North MP candidate

Labour activists in Luton have accused a leading trade union of "forcing" a candidate on Luton North in next month's general election.

Sarah Owen has been selected as Labour's Luton North MP candidate in the election on December 12.

Sarah Owen (centre) at a GMB conference

Sarah Owen (centre) at a GMB conference

Ms Owen is the political officer of the GMB trade union, a member of Labour's national executive committee (NEC) and also serves as chair of Chinese for Labour.

Markus Keaney, chairman of neighbouring Luton South CLP, said: "The GMB have forced a candidate on Luton North CLP who has no knowledge of the constituency, or support amongst the membership.

"It is not too late to reconsider. Failure to do so will mean the seat is lost - several thousand voters will abstain.

"This is not an exaggeration."

Limbury Cllr Amy Nicholls responded online: "That's a bit over dramatic, mate.

"Disappointing we didn't get a more local candidate but we will still campaign hard and the constituency will (hopefully) elect a Labour MP in December.

"A local MP is not as important as electing a Labour government."

ITV reported earlier this week that Labour was engaged in a "last-minute scramble" to place candidates in traditional Labour safe seats, including Luton North.

Ms Owen previously contested her hometown seat of Hastings and Rye against Amber Rudd in 2015, where she was quoted as saying her commitment to her home constituency "cannot be rivalled".

If elected, Ms Owen would be the first Labour MP of East Asian origin.

Local Labour members took to Twitter this evening to express disappointment at the selection process, which apparently deprived local candidates of a chance to put themselves forward.

Former Cllr Yaqub Hanif tweeted: "Absolutely not on!!!"

Ward member Bill Grant tweeted: "Why was my opinion not sought as to who was to represent me as MP for Luton North?

"I for one, would have expected a hustings. Might have been a bit of a rush but it could have been done."

High Town Cllr Rachel Hopkins was selected as Luton South candidate last Friday among a hustings of eight candidates, including former East of England MEP Alex Mayer.

Luton North CLP and Sarah Owen have been contacted for comment by Luton Today.