LABOUR infighting nationally under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is playing out in Coventry in a jostle for power and council seats, which could result in renewed attempts to oust leader Ann Lucas.
It has seen disputes over the selection of candidates to stand in next May’s Coventry City Council elections – after which some party members expect another leadership challenge.
Coun Lucas narrowly survived a leadership contest in May this year in a secret ballot of Labour councillors, by 23 votes to 17.
If she decides next year to continue as leader, another secret vote could swing on how many loyalists she can muster among councillors. Some sources therefore consider as crucial the current selection of ward candidates who will stand to become councillors.
It comes as some national Labour figures are appealing for unity, amid Parliamentary and shadow cabinet discontent since left-winger Mr Corbyn became leader in September with a landslide 59.5 per cent of the vote among party members nationally.
The biggest wrangle is again in the Sherbourne ward, where party officials have stepped in to suspend the selection process for a second time in the last year, pending an investigation following a complaint about alleged procedural irregularities.
Party rules usually enable the membership in all local ward party branches to democratically vote to select their candidate from their own shortlist.
Meanwhile, leading Labour Sherbourne councillor Damian Gannon, cabinet member for finance, has been informed in an email sent by his ward secretary Darrall Cozens of potential pubic damage to the party from his heavy criticism of Mr Corbyn’s leadership on social media.
Coun Gannon claimed on Twitter he had received a “threatening” email, although there is no clear threat in the email, seen by the Coventry Observer, whch was sent to all ward party members.
Sherbourne party members – some of whom were branded ‘left-wingers’ earlier this year by senior council figures – had last month selected a shortlist of two candidates for next year’s council elections which did not include ex-councillor Pat Hetherton, perceived as a Lucas loyalist as a former Labour council whip.
It is not known who complained about the Sherbourne selection process leading to the suspension. But some ward party members have written to Mr Corbyn and West Midlands party officials to contest the suspension.
Another former Labour city councillor, Lynette Kelly, missed out in Lower Stoke, the seat vacated by the late deputy council leader Phil Townshend who died in October.
She had stood down from the council in a failed bid to become MP this year for Warwick and Leamington.
She was beaten in Lower Stoke by party and union activist Rupinder Singh, who becomes Labour’s candidate in May’s council elections.
Sources say the selection process has also been halted in Whoberley in another dispute over alleged procedural technicalities.
The email to fellow Sherbourne ward members by Mr Cozens, president of Coventry Trade Union Council who also fronted the Coventry campaign supporting Mr Corbyn for leader, states some members were “inevitably disappointed” with Mr Corbyn’s victory.
It adds: “I have been sent copies of Twitter pages.. where Councillor Damian Gannon of Sherbourne Ward exchanges Twitter with a Tory Councillor for Earlsdon Ward, Allan Andrews.
“As you can see from the Twitter exchange, which are in the public arena, Councillor Gannon states that the LP (Labour Party) will not survive with Corbyn and that our Party lacks a policy platform, a competent leadership and public trust.
“Like all LP members Councillor Gannon is free to think and say what he wants, but we would also say that such thoughts and words should be expressed within the ranks of the LP as they could help to generate a healthy and fraternal exchange of political ideas.
“To share such thoughts and words with our political enemies does Councillor Gannon no credit and certainly harms Jeremy Corbyn and our Labour Party.”