Senior Labour figures accused of interference in trigger ballot process

Exclusive: Virendra Sharma, the MP for Ealing Southall, is still on track to be triggered, after mysterious NEC u-turn.

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The process of reselecting the Labour MP in Ealing Southall has become embroiled in confusion and suspicion, after the initial decision to nullify two votes to trigger a reselection process was overturned.

The New Statesman reported earlier this week that the local MP, Virendra Sharma, lost two votes in his local party, setting him on the course to be triggered for a full reselection process; but that those votes were declared “null and void” by the NEC representative and regional officer who oversee the process, following complaints. Sources said that there were concerns over whether everyone who voted in those processes had been eligible to do so. 

Now, figures in the local party have been told that the NEC has overturned its initial decision, and that those votes to trigger Virendra Sharma still stand. This means he is on track to face a full reselection process, depending on votes in five other branches. 

However, despite the clear message in an email to local party figures that “the NEC has reversed its decision”, NEC sources confirm that this decision was not taken by them. 

Separate sources have suggested that the decision was taken further up the Labour food chain, either by the regional officer  “under political pressure”, or directly by senior party figures Karie Murphy or Jennie Formby. 

Interventions by Murphy and Formby have caused controversy in the past. Murphy, Corbyn's chief of staff, was accused earlier this year of allegedly playing down allegations of sexual misconduct, after emails showed that she suggested someone “have a word” with a senior party figure about allegations against him, rather than refer him to the party’s official complaints procedure. Formby, the party's general secretary, was accused by the BBC's Panorama of allegedly deleting emails relating to complaints of anti-Semitism in the party.  

Some local party figures in Ealing Southall say they are “pleased” by the decision to uphold the initial votes.   

Virendra Sharma MP, however, told the New Statesman: “It’s very disappointing that the concerns of local members about the propriety of our local trigger process have been overruled. I don’t think it’s right that after members complain a decision to ignore them has been taken at a national level.”

Labour declined to comment on Murphy or Formby's involvement in the decision, but party sources said that new evidence had come to light which had "satisfied the NEC-appointed representative".

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman