Supporters of deselected Ilford South MP told to “put up or shut up” over vote rigging claims

A Labour MP has been told to “put up or shut up” over allegations that “vote rigging” played a part in his deselection 16 months ago.

In October 2022, Ilford South Labour Party members took the rare step of deselecting their sitting MP Sam Tarry in favour of local council leader Jas Athwal.

The vote saw 860 local members choose Athwal as their candidate for the safe Labour seat in the next general election, which is likely to be held later this year.

A source close to Mr Tarry alleges the vote was influenced by “rigging” and said the party is yet to hear his “appeal”.

They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “If proven, these allegations could lead to the suspension and expulsion from the Labour Party of those implicated.”

However, a senior Labour source called Mr Tarry a “desperate one trick pony” and accused him of resorting to “smear and innuendo”.

They added: “If he has evidence of any rule-breaking he should put up or shut up.”

The Labour source said the controversial 2019 party selection process, won by Mr Tarry after favourite Athwal was suspended over sexual harassment allegations which were later dismissed – was a “ludicrous farce”.

“Since then, Keir Starmer has changed the Labour Party, Ilford South members democratically changed their parliamentary candidate and Ilford South will soon be changing their MP at the general election,” they added.

A spokesperson for the Labour Party declined to comment on questions about the integrity of the selection process, but insisted that Athwal is the party’s chosen candidate.

The vote by Ilford South party members meant that Mr Tarry, a former trade union official, was the first Labour MP in more than a decade to be deselected.

Ilford South is a constituency of about 147,000 residents and is seen as a safe Labour seat thanks to a majority of 24,000 in the last election.

At the October selection meeting, Jas Athwal, who has led the Labour council since 2014, won a comfortable victory of 499 votes against 361 for Mr Tarry.

However, 16 months on and with a general election looming, Mr Tarry’s legal “challenge” to the Labour Party selection process remains unresolved.

Mr Tarry was first elected under controversial circumstances in 2019, after Athwal was suspended from the party days before Labour members were due to vote.

A supporter of previous party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Tarry was sacked from Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet in July for broadcasting TV interviews from a picket line during the rail strikes.

Cllr Athwal launched his election campaign in June last year. He has promised to “work tirelessly” for Ilford South to deliver a “brighter future” and win the next election.

The Redbridge council leader did not respond to a request for comment.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter