Labour MP selections: Who’s in and who’s out amid Abbott and Shaheen row

Labour has become embroiled in a fierce row this week as as party officials moved to bar several parliamentary candidates on the left of the party from standing at the upcoming general election.

Long-standing MP Diane Abbott was readmitted into the party on Tuesday after a suspension that lasted over a year. Despite her future as a Labour MP being cast into doubt this week, it appears she may now stand for the party after leader Sir Keir Starmer said she was free to do so.

The case has drawn strong criticism from local Labour members and anti-racism campaigners. It comes alongside the barring of Faiza Shaheen, former Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.

Being only a few weeks away from the general election, it is Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) – and not local party members – that will select candidates for the upcoming election.

Follow The Independent’s live coverage for the latest political updates ahead of the general election

Faiza Shaheen, Jeremy Corbyn, and Diane Abbott (L to R) (Getty Images)
Faiza Shaheen, Jeremy Corbyn, and Diane Abbott (L to R) (Getty Images)

This is Labour’s governing body, comprised of representatives from each section of the party and democratically elected.

Following her and Ms Shaheen’s suspension, Ms Abbott said the party under Sir Keir was undertaking a “cull of left wingers.”

The Labour leader has denied having any influence in the cases of either politician. He told reporters he has not blocked left-wing candidates from standing, saying “I want the highest quality candidates.”

Amidst the Labour infighting, here’s who’s in – and who’s out – of the party ahead of the upcoming general election:

Who’s out

Out: Faiza Shaheen, Chingford and Woodford Green

Jeremy Corbyn with Faiza Shaheen in 2019 (AFP via Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn with Faiza Shaheen in 2019 (AFP via Getty Images)

Faiza Shaheen is an academic and economist who specialises in inequality. Born in 1982 to immigrant parents, she grew up in Chingford, east London. Her first job was at a Greggs bakery.

Since 2007, Ms Shaheen has held positions in policy research, charity, and academia with a focus on economic inequality.

The left-winger was selected to run for her hometown seat of Chingford and Woodford Green at the 2019 election. Ms Shaheen did not win the seat, but managed to secure Labour’s largest ever vote share in the constituency, coming second by just over 1,000 votes.

In July 2022, she was selected by local members to contest the seat again. Nearly two years later, in April 2024, she was deselected by the NEC.

“I’m in a state of shock, to be honest,” she told BBC’s Newsnight in an emotional interview just hours after she was deselected.

It is alleged Ms Shaheen had liked fourteen tweets – several before she was a Labour party member – which were called into question. Some were purported to contain antisemtic content while others were perceived to be against the Labour party, for instance by supporting the Green party.

One of the tweets was a retweet of a Jon Stewart sketch. “I don’t even remember liking that tweet,” she said, while acknowledging that it could be perceived by some as offensive, and apologising.

Ms Shaheen has vowed to take legal action against the Labour party, arguing that she has been subjected to a “campaign of prejudice, bullying and spiteful behaviour” and that she was “added to the list of those not welcome in the candidate club.”

Out: Jeremy Corbyn, Islington North

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Belinda Jiao/PA) (PA Wire)
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Belinda Jiao/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour leader from 2015 to 2020, Jeremy Corbyn is one of Labour’s longest serving MPs, holding the seat of Islington North for the party since 1983.

A longtime backbench parliamentarian, Mr Corbyn was propelled to the forefront of Labour when he was selected leader in 2015. He was leader during the party’s unsuccessful general election campaigns in 2017 and 2019.

The veteran MP was suspended from Labour in October 2020 after asserting that the scale of antisemitism within the party was “dramatically overstated” for political purposes.

He was readmitted as a party member the following month with a formal warning. However, Sir Keir decided not to restore the whip, meaning Mr Corbyn was not in the parliamentary party.

In March 2023, the NEC resolved to block Mr Corbyn as a candidate for the next election. In May 2024, when it became clear the governing body would not renege on the move, he announced he would stand for his seat as an independent candidate.

Since this is strictly against party rules, Mr Corbyn was expelled from Labour on the same day.

Out: Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Brighton Kemptown

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

Lloyd Russell-Moyle was elected as MP for Brighton Kemptown in 2017, and retained his seat at the 2019 election.

Mr Russell-Moyle garnered headlines in 2018 when he seized the ceremonial mace in protest at the government’s decision to delay a key Brexit vote. The same year, he became the first MP to disclose that he is HIV positive in a parliamentary speech.

The Brighton MP was suspended from the party in May 2024 over a complaint about his behaviour made eight years prior. He called the complaint “vexatious and politically motivated”.

Due to the timing of his suspension, Mr Russell-Moyle will be unable to contest his seat for a third time.

Speaking to the BBC, he said he has been made a “sacrificial lamb” by the Labour party, adding: “it is one system if you are very at the top or in the clique, and another system if you’re not.”

Who’s in?

In?: Diane Abbott, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Diane Abbott stands on the steps of Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday (Getty Images)
Diane Abbott stands on the steps of Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday (Getty Images)

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in London to Jamaican immigrant parents. She made history by becoming the first Black woman elected to the British parliament in 1987.

Throughout her political career, she has been outspoken on race issues, human rights, and civil liberties.

The veteran left-wing MP was first suspended from the party in April 2023 following a letter she penned about racism for the Observer newspaper.

After a lengthy investigation into her comments, she was readmitted to the party in May 2024 after undergoing a disciplinary process.

But the question of whether or not Ms Abbott would be able to stand at the upcoming general election remained mired in uncertainty over the days following the restoration of the Labour whip. Ms Abbott said she had been barred from standing – a claim that Sir Keir called “not true”.

However, as a days-long row over her political future overshadowed the party’s campaign, the Labour leader on Friday gave the green light for Ms Abbott’s candidacy, stating that she is “free” to stand as a Labour candidate in the general election.

Labour sources said Ms Abbott will be the Labour candidate in her long-held London constituency, with the NEC expected to ratify the decision when it meets on Tuesday.

Ms Abbott has represented Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, making her the fifth longest-serving Labour MP in parliament. She has been returned to the seat at nine elections, securing a majority of over 33,000 in 2019.

In: Luke Akehurst, Gurinder Singh Josan, Michael Wheeler and more

Adding fuel to the row around Labour’s recent candidate deselections is who the NEC has selected to take unfilled seats, with five of their own members gaining Labour candidacies.

NEC member Luke Akehurst has been selected as Labour’s candidate for North Durham. He is the director of lobby group We Believe in Israel and secretary of the Labour First network, which has the stated aim of keeping the party “safe from the organised left”.

Meanwhile NEC members Gurinder Singh Josan and Michael Wheeler have been selected as the candidates of Smethwick, and Worsley & Eccles. Both men were part of the three-person panel that determined Ms Shaheen should be deselected.

The two other NEC members with Labour candidacies are chair James Asser and Unison’s Mark Ferguson for West Ham and Beckton, and Gateshead Central and Whickham.

Candidates are selected through an interview with a panel of three NEC members. It is unclear how or whether an NEC member will still participate in the selection process when they are proposed as a candidate themselves.

Among the other NEC candidate selections are former adviser to Sir Keir, Chris Ward (Brighton Kemptown), former adviser to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Heather Iqbal (Dewsbury & Batley), and director of pro-Starmer think tanks Labour Together, Josh Simons (Makerfield).

The Labour Party and NEC have been approached for comment.