LABOUR party infighting in Coventry is threatening to become open revolt after a former council cabinet member was parachuted in to the Sherbourne ward by party bureaucrats as its candidate in May’s elections.
Former leading city councillor Lynnette Kelly – who stood down as a councillor in 2014 in an unsuccessful bid to become Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington last year – has been imposed as the Labour candidate for Sherbourne by West Midlands regional officials.
She is considered to be an ally of council leader Ann Lucas, who is expected to face another rebellion and leadership challenge among fellow Labour councillors after May’s council elections.
The balance of elected councillors who are either for or against Coun Lucas’s leadership after May’s council elections will be crucial in any renewed attempts to oust her as leader.
Left-wingers in the Sherbourne ward party hostile to Coun Lucas are furious that the local democratic process has been by-passed with Mrs Kelly being imposed on them from above – denying local party members the chance to vote for their own candidate.
If she wins the seat, she will replace Coun Alison Gingell – who stood down for health reasons.
Local party members had voted for a shortlist of two before West Midlands Labour party officials stepped in to suspend the local democratic process amid allegations from rival factions of procedural errors.
Outraged party members wrote to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling on him to intervene in the debacle before Mrs Kelly’s candidacy.
One Sherbourne party member, who did not want to be named, said ahead of a ward meeting tonight: “Ward members could refuse to work with Lynnette Kelly.
“She has been imposed on us by unelected officials, despite re-assurances we would have the democratic right to choose our own candidate.
“They wanted someone favourable to Ann Lucas.”
The regional party says its own “selection panel” staged its own selection process for the Sherbourne ward, and had interviewed Mrs Kelly and other unsuccessful applicants last week.
It follows a similar row last year when council cabinet member Damian Gannon was subsequently re-elected as Sherbourne councillor.
Mrs Kelly had been unsuccessful in her bid to become the candidate in Lower Stoke following the death of late cabinet member Phil Townshend in October last year.
It is alleged by several party members that she aggressively lost her temper with some fellow members on being defeated at a Lower Stoke selection meeting by Rupinder Singh – and that regional officials have been notified of this.
It is alleged she swore at one party member and claimed Mr Singh was only voted in by the Asian vote
Mrs Kelly, speaking with the Observer, said it was “the first she’d heard” of those allegations, adding: “There’s no way I would have said that about Rupinder Singh.”
She did not deny telling another member to “**** off”, admitting it was language she used on occasion. Asked again if she had, she said: “Not as far as I recall.”
She added: “I’m delighted to be selected for the Sherbourne ward I was born in and went to school in.
“It’s not a safe Labour seat. We only got it back in 2012. I look forward to sitting down with Sherbourne members and discussing how we can win the seat in May.
“I don’t know why the process was taken away from local party members. I’m not party to those conversations.
“A decision was taken that it would be a regional party decision . All the women on the panel of candidates were invited to put themselves forward and those who did were interviewed. The interview process was tough.”