Labour confirms deselection of Southend councillors

THE Labour Party has confirmed it has dumped two highly-regarded Southend councillors just weeks before the May council elections.

The party confirmed on Tuesday that Aston Line, current Labour councillor for Westborough, and Stephen George, a former council leader, had been deselected.

A terse statement from party headquarters made no mention, and gave no explanation, for the decision.

A spokesman said: “Labour is proud to have selected a dedicated team of candidates for Southend City Council who are committed to representing residents and delivering positive change.”

The party announced Pamela Kinsella will take Mr Line’s place as council candidate in Westborough and Sam Allen will replace long-serving councillor, Mr George in Milton ward in the centre of Southend.

Following the announcement Mr Line said he would now concentrate on his ambitions for selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Leigh and Southend West.

He said: “The announcement that I am not standing for re-election to Southend Council in May will no doubt come as a surprise to my constituents in Westborough Ward. I am sure that at this stage everyone will be well aware that I am seeking the Labour Party’s nomination to stand again for my home seat of Southend West and Leigh, at the General Election to come sometime this year.

“Given the importance of that election, and that Southend West and Leigh desperately needs a change of direction after 14 years of failure and mismanagement under the Conservatives, I have decided to focus all of my efforts on the selection and subsequent election campaigns.”

Cllr Line added: “It has been the honour of my life to represent the good residents of Westborough on Southend Council, and I am immensely proud of what I have been able to achieve right across the city. I wish the very best to my successor as Labour candidate in Westborough, and I look forward to 2024 being a year of Labour gains in Southend, and a Labour Government in Westminster.”

Cllr George was approached to comment. Labour Group leader Daniel Cowan stated it was a “national party decision” while Southend Labour spokesman Matt Dent would not comment on the announcement.

A source said appeals could be lodged and therefore it was officially currently speculation, but they added: “To deselect Aston is a travesty after all the work he has put in.”

Cllr Line was previously selected for the Southend West seat in 2019 and has the backing of trades unions.

The popular councillor, chairman of the Labour group of councillors, has based his parliamentary bid on preserving the NHS, beating the cost-of-living crisis and backing green technology, infrastructure and jobs.

Long-serving councillor Mr George became leader of a Labour-led joint administration in 2022 after Ian Gilbert was ousted as group leader.

He previously served on the council for 11 years until 2011.

Cllr Line and Cllr George were both approached to comment, but did not respond before publication.

Local elections take place on Thursday, May 2.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter