By Kaye Wiggins
Campaigners have accused the Lambeth Labour group of a “shocking witch hunt” in a row about the selection of the party’s candidates for next year’s local elections.
The accusation comes after Adeline Aina (left), who was chosen by Labour party members to stand for election in the Larkhall ward, was called in for a hearing by the local party’s forum. The move raises questions about whether she will be able to keep her place as one of the party’s candidates.
Council leader Lib Peck said Aina had been called in because the party had to “make sure that council candidates selected are of the upmost integrity and have the ability to hold such an important local office.”
She added that the local Labour group the Lambeth Campaigns Forum had raised questions about Aina and “we have given [her] the opportunity to attend a meeting to discuss this.”
But Aina’s supporters gathered on Windrush Square at the weekend, pictured above, to protest against the move.
They claim she is the subject of a “witch hunt” by party members who want to reinstate the senior councillor Pete Robbins, who is responsible for housing and regeneration across the borough, in her place.
Cllr Robbins was deselected from the party at the meeting where Aina was chosen, losing to her by one vote.
Simon Woolley, director of the equality campaign group Operation Black Vote, said in an article on the OBV website that the decision to call Aina in for questions “has all the hallmarks of powerful white men manipulating their privilege and undermining the democratic process.”
He said: “The local party should be warned against this shocking witch hunt.”
Woolley has also complained to Lambeth’s Labour councillors that the party had not told Aina why she was being asked to attend a hearing.
In an open letter to the councillors he said: “I don’t know whether or not Adeline lacks the integrity to represent the Labour Party, but if there are serious questions to answer have the decency to let her know right now what those accusations are and allow her to come a meeting with her own representative so she can defend both her character and integrity.”
At the Windrush Square demonstration, Aina told the Brixton Blog: “I’m really privileged to have been selected in the Larkhall ward. All I want to do is serve the people and I won’t let them down.
“Today is a peaceful demonstration for democracy and for making sure our democratic rights are upheld.”
At the event Donald Cole JP (left), vice-chair of the Peckham Labour party, told the Blog he thought the controversy was part of a bigger picture in which the party was failing to represent local communities.
“We’ve got local issues and we’ve got ethnic minority people in the community who understand those issues,” he said.
“But the Lambeth Labour party is bringing in people from outside the vicinity who have never been engaged with those issues. It means the cabinet [the group of the most senior councillors] is completely detached from the community.”
Cole said people should not be eligible to be chosen as council candidates unless they had at least two years of experience of being “engaged with local issues”.
However, Labour councillor Florence Nosegbe (left) said in a statement: “Labour councillors in Lambeth make up one of the most diverse and representative groups in London.
“We have already increased the proportion of BAME and women candidates selected to fight the election in 2014, but as a party we must not become complacent.
“In a diverse borough like Lambeth it is important that we continue to encourage candidates from all different backgrounds to become active in public life.”