Sam Tarry: an unfair deselection?

By

Sam Tarry was seen by many as a rising star within the left of the Labour party before he was brought down by members of his Constituency Labour Party in Ilford South on the 10th of October. Tarry was replaced as the Labour candidate by Jas Athwal, the Leader of Redbridge Council, in a selection meeting of his local party branch. The reselection was triggered after he lost a routine trigger ballot that is held in every Labour seat prior to a General Election. Tarry is perhaps best known for being dismissed as Shadow Minister for Buses and Local Transport after appearing on picket lines over the summer, in a direct contradiction of the party leadership.

Some attribute his deselection as one component of a wider crackdown on party discipline as part of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s attempt to get the party on a General Election footing. Many similar MPs that find themselves more ideologically alienated by the current leadership have found themselves narrowly avoiding trigger ballots, including Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Nadia Whittome and Zarah Sultana. According to The Guardian, Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, and Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby are still battling similar challenges. 

Some attribute his deselection as one component of a wider crackdown on party discipline as part of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s attempt to get the party on a General Election footing.

Wes Streeting MP, a close Starmer ally and Shadow Health Secretary tweeted in strong support of Athwal’s “resounding” victory. Streeting commented on Athwal’s “lifelong commitment” to his community and “outstanding leadership” in Redbridge, which was seen by some as a snub towards Tarry. Some have used this to highlight potential tensions at the top of the party, with many pointing out that Angela Raynor, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and Tarry are in a relationship, making any potential spats between Shadow Cabinet members more complicated.

However, Athwal is no stranger to this seat, having been previously suspended the night before a selection process in 2019 due to “extremely serious allegations” being made anonymously against him to an independent investigator that deals with sexual harassment claims. This paved the way for Tarry, a director of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2016 leadership campaign, to be selected. This stirred controversy, as Athwal had been the favourite to win the nomination prior to the allegations being made, with many seeing the reporting as a deliberate smear to tarnish his reputation. Subsequently, he was cleared by the party after what he described as a “tortuous” process where he considered suicide because of the toll it took to clear his name.

Since the deselection, Tarry has cast significant doubt over the integrity of the results, despite all ten of Ilford South’s branches backing his opponent prior to the meeting. He said in a statement that he is “extremely concerned about the result” and that it “does not reflect the feeling” that campaigners had on the ground in the run-up to the ballot. This is after he told newspapers that he was “very confident” of victory prior to the vote. He has now asked the Party for an audit, requesting data on “who cast electronic votes, by what method, and when they were cast”. Critics within the party have accused his actions as being like a “pound-shop Donald Trump”. 

Since the deselection, Tarry has cast significant doubt over the integrity of the results, despite all ten of Ilford South’s branches backing his opponent prior to the meeting.

Riling the supporter base of a prominent MP that is on the left of the party is unlikely to solve any issues to do with party unity, with Tarry himself claiming that there is “now a clear pattern of factional elements of the party machine targeting socialist and trade union backed candidates”. However, some may argue these smaller battles between the left and right of the party may go some way to overall improving the electability of the party, one of Starmer’s key commitments.

Image: David Woolfall via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.