THREE Coventry councillors believed to be loyal to the council leadership have been reselected to stand as Labour candidates in May’s elections amid accusations of ‘dirty dealings’ and outside interference.
The Coventry Observer reported last month Coventry Labour party in-fighting and interference from the party’s West Midlands regional officials over who would be selected to stand for Labour in the forthcoming council elections in Sherbourne, Foleshill and Whoberley.
The biggest challenge was to councillor Damian Gannon, whose faced opposition to his candidacy from inside his own Sherbourne ward party.
Councillor Gannon, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for finance who last month steered his £15million cuts budget through the council, faced opposition from some party members unhappy over his cuts budget, which Coun Gannon attributed to drastic government funding cuts.
Last week, the Sherbourne ward party belatedly voted to re-select Coun Gannon as its candidate to fight the seat in May.
Some alleged there was inappropriate outside interference from senior Labour party figures outside the ward in order to secure Coun Gannon’s reselection.
It is understood the selection meeting which voted for Coun Gannon against two other shortlisted candidates – PhD student Dave Toulson and Christian spiritualist minister Christine Thomas – was flooded with members who do not usually attend ward meetings, and who were drafted in to vote for Coun Gannon.
While no wrongdoing is alleged, opponents claim the wrangling undermined local democracy, and that campaigning included ‘scaremongering’ against an alleged “left-wing faction”.
It is understood those loyal to Coun Gannon claim the alleged “left-wing faction” which regularly attended ward meetings was unrepresentative of wider Labour members in Sherbourne.
One party member, who did not wish to be named, said: “There were dirty dealings. Sherbourne was caught up in infighting between the two factions of Coventry Labour party at the Council House.”
Coun Gannon tweeted: “Thank you to all the Labour members who came out to support me tonight – proud to have been reselected – let’s win Sherbourne for Labour!”
Rumours are circulating of a possible leadership challenge by rebel Labour councillors after the elections against leader Ann Lucas and her deputy Phil Townshend.
The council leadership will hope May’s elections deliver as many Labour councillors as possible who are supportive of the leadership.
Meanwhile, councillor Abdul Khan, who is an ally and business partner of Coun Townshend, has been reselected to stand for Labour in May in Foleshill.
Regional party officals had previously investigated ‘vote-rigging’ allegations that factions had recruited new members to the Foleshill ward specifically to bolster the vote in favour of their preferred candidate.
The same allegation of “factional recruitment” in Foleshill was investigated and ruled out when councillor Colleen Fletcher was selected as the Parliamentary candidate in Coventry North east.
The regional party re-selected Coun Khan last week, denying the local Foleshill party an opportunity to vote for its own candidate from a shortlist.
Party rules usually enable the membership in all local ward party branches to democratically vote to select their candidate from a shortlist, which would usually include the sitting councillor.
There was also no shortlist in Whoberley, where councillor Dan Howells was selected unopposed to re-stand in May to retain his council seat for Labour.
Selection in Whoberley had been delayed as regional party officials investigated complaints in a row between Coun Howells and fellow Labour councillor Jayne Innes, which is now understood to have been resolved informally.
All 18 wards in Coventry will be contested on May 7 and Labour has now selected all its candidates.
It is understood the local Labour party – which has a massive majority over the Tories at the Council House – fears losing several seats, partly because of controversy over proposals to build homes on the Greenbelt.