A row has broken out ahead of the selection of Labour’s candidate to fight the crucial by-election in Wakefield after a selection panel excluded a former Jeremy Corbyn supporter from a shortlist.
Wakefield deputy council leader Jack Hemingway was one of a number of candidates attempting to make the shortlist to become the city’s next MP in a by-election triggered by the resignation of the West Yorkshire city’s disgraced ex-Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan.
But in a move which angered left-wing Momentum activists in Wakefield, a panel decided to remove Hemingway’s name from a shortlist of four possible candidates that members can vote for.
While Labour declined to officially confirm, it is understood that a series of historic social media posts from Hemingway – including a deleted 2018 post claiming that adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism would be “disastrous” – were at the centre of concerns about his suitability to stand for election.
Another post by Hemingway also saw him call for Corbyn to be reinstated to as Labour MP.
Mike Katz, the Jewish Labour Movement’s national chair had been amongst those to raise concerns about Hemingway’s previous social media posts.
Concerned that Wakefield frontrunner Jack Hemmingway has liked posts from George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob, downplayed antisemitism and called for the reinstatement of Jeremy Corbyn after the EHRC report publication.
— Mike Katz (@mikekatz) May 11, 2022
One Labour source told Jewish News: “Let’s be honest, social media posts in support of Corbyn, and questioning the IHRA definition are not a good look, especially when you consider were the party is now under Keir Starmer.
“The Tories would have exploited this candidate’s past record to the full if he stood as our candidate, no matter how much he tried to clarify his remarks now.”
In a statement to Huffington Post, Hemingway said:”I’m a committed anti-racist and I think antisemitism is a scourge that should be eradicated.
“I’ve never hid the fact that I supported Jeremy Corbyn for leader and I voted for Rebecca Long-Bailey to be deputy… but I have always respected Keir’s right to lead the party.”
On Thursday Labour announced a short-list containing four names – Kate Dearden, Simon Lightwood, Sam Howarth and Rachael Kenningham – who will take part in a hustings on Sunday ahead of a vote by local members.
Sources have confirmed to Jewish News that while the Momentum faction are not in the majority in the Wakefield local party but they still make up a “not insignificant and definitely loud voice”.
On Friday, Momentum put out a statement claiming Labour had breached their own rules on managing the choice of parliamentary candidates by limiting the number of local representatives allowed to participate in shortlisting for the Wakefield selection process.
But one Labour source said the left-wing group were living in “fantasy land.”
The party source added: “This is one of the most crucial by-elections for Labour under Keir Starmer’s leadership yet.
“The idea that the national party is just going to sit back and not be involved in the candidate selection process is something from fantasy land.
“We need a candidate that best represents where the party is now under Keir’s leadership, and not one who is stuck in the past.”
There were further claims that a number of Wakefield constituency Labour Party executive members had resigned in protest at the fact other names had been left off of the shortlist.
Labour had lost Wakefield to the Tories by 3,358 votes at the 2019 general election after holding the seat since 1932.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Working people in Wakefield have been badly let down by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, who ignored serious allegations of child sexual assault against their paedophile former MP Imran Ahmad Khan before his election.
“Wakefield deserves better and our selection process is now underway.
“Party members in the constituency will consider a shortlist in the coming days and be able to choose the Labour candidate to be Wakefield’s new MP.”
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