RIGHT-WING Labour bigwigs have sought to “manipulate processes” to remove a parliamentary candidate who came within a whisker of winning last year, sources claimed yesterday.
The process of selecting Glasgow South West’s Westminster candidate has sparked a massive factional row. Failed Scottish Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar has been accused of intervening in support of Asim Khan, a Glasgow solicitor who is seeking the nomination.
But Matt Kerr, a local councillor and union rep who fell just 60 votes short of unseating the SNP’s Chris Stephens at last year’s general election, has strong support from members to stand again.
Yesterday it emerged that Mr Khan plans to sue the party over the “freeze date” for the Labour selection in order to allow hundreds of additional members to vote.
Mr Sarwar is understood to have signed up thousands of new members — mostly from Asian communities — during his unsuccessful leadership battle against Richard Leonard.
A former vice-chair of Blairite faction Progress, Mr Sarwar is known to have a strong base in Glasgow’s south side. The constituency now up for grabs is adjacent to the seat that both he and his father Mohammed Sarwar previously represented in Westminster.
Only Labour members of six months or more can vote in selections. The dispute centres on whether this limit should be set six months back from March 21, when the selection committee was appointed, or six months back from April 4, when a second meeting attended by Scottish Labour general secretary Brian Roy was held.
Local party chiefs reportedly claimed that the later freeze date should be chosen on the grounds that selection committees cannot meet without a party official in attendance.
But committee members protested, saying there was no such requirement. Scottish Labour officials then changed the cut-off to the earlier date.
One of Mr Khan’s backers told the Daily Record that the decision had “clear racist undertones.”
But a party source said: “The decision was made on legal advice. It’s an affront to the party to in any way suggest this is motivated by racism.
“People in Glasgow for a while have sought to manipulate processes to suit their own ends. That is a style of politics that’s had its day.”
Another source suggested that rightwingers on Labour’s Scottish executive committee had deliberately delayed the selection in order to harm the left.
Mr Khan is expected to seek a halt to the contest at the Court of Session on Friday.
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