Two candidates battling to stand for Labour against Corbyn

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Two candidates battling to stand for Labour against Corbyn

EXCLUSIVE Former BBC Newsnight presenter and a respected local councillor compete to be party's candidate in Islington North

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after the results was given at Sobell Leisure Centre for the Islington North constituency for the 2019 General Election. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after the results was given at Sobell Leisure Centre for the Islington North constituency for the 2019 General Election. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A former BBC Newsnight presenter and a respected local councillor are battling to become the Labour candidate to take on Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North at the next general election, Jewish News can reveal.

Meanwhile at least four names are seeking support for their campaigns to be selected to fight the Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat, in the event that the veteran MP Diane Abbott does not have the Labour whip returned in time to stand for the party again.

Paul Mason, the former BBC Newsnight business editor is understood to have confirmed to Labour chiefs that he wishes to seek selection as the Labour candidate to take on Corbyn in the seat he has represented since 1983.

Paul Mason

But the journalist and author faces a challenge to become Labour’s candidate from Praful Nargand, a respected local Islington councillor and innovations entrepreneur.

Having lost the Labour whip in 2020, over his response to the equality watchdog’s antisemitism report, and barred in March 2023 from standing as a Labour candidate by his successor, Keir Starmer, Corbyn has yet to confirm that he will run as an independent in the constituency. Some Labour insiders believe Corbyn is even considering standing down at the next election, although he is being encouraged by his most committed supporters to relish the challenge of campaigning against a pro-Starmer candidate.

There had even been speculation that Corbyn would consider entering into a political alliance with George Galloway, but Jewish News understands that there are now significant tensions between the two men, making such a pact unlikely.

Neither Mason nor Nargand would comment when approached by Jewish News about their decision to stand as possible candidates in the north London seat at the election later this year.

Praful Nargund

But friends of Mason confirmed he had “made it clear” to the party that he wished to seek selection as candidate who wished to challenge the politics of division that had become associated with the MP.

The 64-year-old had once been a prominent supporter of Corbyn after leaving Channel 4 in 2016. But he become a fierce critic of the former leader in more recent years – particularly over antisemitism, and over security and foreign policy matters.

Mason’s scathing review of the film, “Oh Jeremy Corbyn, The Big Lie” was widely praised for it’s strong criticism of those who sought to defend or excuse the former leader’s record on antisemitism.

On his personal website Nargand confirms he has spent the past decade “using innovation to tackle inequalities in fertility treatment.”

He has campaigned for a “skills revolution so that skills and training can help end the lottery of birth and background” and is a member of the Labour Party’s Council of Skills Advisers.

With his background in Islington, and his moderate political background, Nargand has impressed some local members with his campaign to be selected as the Labour candidate.

But others believe in the rough and tough of a battle with Corbyn’s far-left supporters, Mason, who wishes to resist being seen as a “left candidate” has the necessary backbone to stand up to the worst excesses of the former leader’s backers.

Over in Hackney North and Stoke Newington 70 year-old Abbott has been suspended as a Labour MP since April 2023 after suggesting Jewish, Irish and Traveller people were not subject to racism “all their lives”.

Diane Abbott. (Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Jewish News has learned that Anntoinette Bramble, deputy mayor of Hackney council and a councillor in the borough, Sem Moema, a London Assembly member and Hackney councillor and Susan Fajana-Thomas, a councillor in Stoke Newington, are all likely to seek election if Abbott does not stand for Labour at the next election.

Jewish News approached all three for comment on claims they were willing to seek selection in the seat for Labour.

Mete Coban, also a councillor in Stoke Newington, has also been linked with seat.

After Abbott’s comments sparked anger last April, Jewish News understands that some in the party favoured offering Abbott a dignified exit from the party, with the possibility of a peerage.

But others said her comments were so offensive to the Jewish, and other minority communities, that they had destroyed any hope of a dignified exit.

Last April, in the midst of another antisemitism scandal Starmer said of Abbott’s actions: “In my view, what she said was to be condemned, it was antisemitic.” Abbott withdrew her remarks, apologised and said: “Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.” She also said the letter was an initial draft sent by mistake, but it emerged the version sent had been sent twice.

The investigation into her conduct continues, but rather than appearing upset, Abbott has repeatedly gone on the offensive attacking the Labour leadership on social media, and in a column for the Morning Star newspaper.

She has claimed that “as a black woman, I will not get a fair hearing from this Labour leadership” over the investigation into her remarks.

The party has also yet to finalise its election plans for other London seats, including in the Poplar and Limehouse seat.

Apsana Begum, the current Labour MP was set to face a reselection process after being “triggered” following a vote of local members. But she subsequently claimed she had been the victim of a “vicious and misogynistic” campaign, that left her unable to carry on working.

Begum has since returned, but has attempted to argue that after her treatment the party should abandon any election contest. But Jewish News has been made aware of a local candidate willing to stand against her if a selection contest does still happen.

Meanwhile Labour has now finalised its plans for selections in around 211 so-called non-battleground seats. This will leave the party having to complete a series of late selection contests in the weeks leading up to election, expected in October or November.

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