Chingford News

‘Labour’s handed it to the Tories’: Hundreds show support for Faiza Shaheen at Highams Park rally

The former Chingford and Woodford Green candidate told supporters that she doesn’t think there is ‘any way back’ for her into the Labour Party, reports Marco Marcelline

Inset image credit: Tom Oldham

Hundreds of people turned up at a hastily arranged protest to show solidarity with Faiza Shaheen, the former Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green on Friday evening (31st May).

A tearful Faiza arrived at the protest with her husband and newborn son and was immediately met with chants encouraging her to stand as an independent. 

She began by thanking the crowd of supporters, saying seeing their faces had filled her with “so much faith and hope” before slamming the party’s treatment of her and Diane Abbott.

Faiza told the crowd: “I must be honest – after the way I’ve been treated, I don’t think there’s any way back for me into the Labour Party. Look at what they’ve done to me, what they’ve done to Diane, to make us grovel and beg – no.”

On her political future, she said: “I’m going to make some decisions with the team over the next few days and I may ask you to do something really big for all of us.”

Speakers at the event included Faiza’s actor husband Akin Gazi, local business owners, a pair of local mums, and Kevin Courtney, former general secretary of the National Education Union.

Kevin told the assembled supporters: “You can’t possibly think there is a better candidate than Faiza. The way she’s been treated is absolutely disgraceful. There have been ridiculous trumped up charges against her and two NEC members who [deselected] Faiza have been given safe Labour seats.”

He additionally levelled an attack at Labour’s electoral strategy, saying: “I’m in favour of [reaching] Conservative voters but I’m not in favour of turning back on working class, Muslim, and minority ethnic communities.”

Sarah Chaney, one of the lead organisers in Faiza’s campaign, told the Echo that she felt “crushed” by the deselection. 

“I gave two years of my life [into the campaign]; I put every weekend, every evening into it because Faiza is someone I genuinely believe in. I’ve voted Labour my entire adult life. I grew up in a Labour household. I’m very disappointed.”

Sarah said how she volunteered to take a prominent role in organising the campaign after a paid Labour staffer was unexplainedly moved to work on another candidate’s campaign when Faiza was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. 

Labour volunteer Sarah Chaney at the protest

Sarah continued: “The thing that really strikes me [about the deselection] is the lack of humanity; the inability to understand that these are real people’s lives; Faiza’s life; mine; all the hundreds of people who came out today to support her who have spent the last two years hoping for a better life in Chingford and Woodford Green – and that’s just been snatched away from us.”

Local mums Melissa Hernandez and Thami Fahmy, both women of colour, said they saw themselves in Faiza, and described her as a “fresh of breath air”. 

Melissa said she thought the act of deselecting Faiza meant Labour had given away the seat to Iain Duncan Smith. She said: “Labour have handed it to the Tories. Just two days ago I was telling my friend group we need to get the Tories out and vote Labour. But Labour are making it so hard to vote for them.”

Thami, who said she would not vote for Labour, added: “If they keep people like Faiza and Diane out of Labour, what does it mean for our communities? Who is this Labour [Party] for?”

Faiza emotionally greets supporters

On Thursday (30th May) it was announced that Labour had chosen a Brent councillor to stand as Faiza’s replacement. 

In a press statement, Shama Tatler said: “I am delighted to be standing for Labour in Chingford & Woodford Green. With Keir Starmer at the helm, Labour is back in the service of working people. We will put an end to 14 years of Tory chaos and decline with a plan for national renewal, built on a bedrock of economic stability.”

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Shama previously stood for selection in Watford in 2022 but failed, with the nomination going to fellow Brent councillor Matthew Turmaine instead. 

London Labour has described Shama as a “Gujarati Jain, a widow and a single mum” who is “passionate about addressing generational inequality, creating new opportunities for young people and tackling the housing crisis”.

Having served in Barnet Council’s cabinet since December 2016, Shama is co-chair of Labour to Win, a political group that sees itself as protecting the tradition of the “old Labour right”, and resisting socialist or left-wing voices in the Labour Party. The group is run by Luke Akehurst, an NEC member and former Hackney councillor who works as the director of the lobby group We Believe in Israel. He was this week selected as the Labour candidate for North Durham. 

Faiza responded to Shama’s selection with incredulity, tweeting: “Really?! Wow a Brent councillor with no history here at all. They would rather lose than have a left pro Palestine candidate. This is offensive to my community.”

On Friday, tens of people, many being Redbridge councillors, attended a rally for Shama outside Woodford Station in Redbridge. Jas Athwal, Redbridge Council leader shared photos of the event on X, saying: “Shama will be an incredible champion for Chingford & Woodford Green – standing up for local people.”

Waltham Forest councillors who attended to show support for Shama included Hoe Street ward councillor Miriam Mirwitch, cabinet member for community safety Khevyn Limbajee and the only Labour councillor in Chingford, Elizabeth Baptiste.

Former Ilford South MP and staunch Jeremy Corbyn critic Mike Gapes was also in attendance at the rally.

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, Gurinder Singh Josan, one of the NEC members who served on the panel that deselected Faiza, was picked as a candidate for his home seat of Smethwick, in the West Midlands.

Celebrating his selection, he said: “A real honour to be selected UK Labour candidate in Smethwick, the seat I was born in & where I live & work. 

Keir Starmer has changed the Labour Party & will bring the change the country needs.”

Chingford and Woodford Green Labour member Alistair Smailes told the Echo he was “completely surprised” at the speed at which Shama had been selected, saying it suggested that her selection was “pre-planned”. 

He said: “She has no connection to Chingford and Woodford Green. Nobody has ever heard of her before. No-one will canvas for her here. People here are really distraught at the way Faiza has been treated and are saying they are going to leave the Labour Party and not vote.”

The Liberal Democrat’s Chingford & Woodford Green candidate, Josh Hadley said: “The manner in which the central [Labour] party has removed Faiza from the current race is both brutal and unfair. It is a further worrying indication of how Keir Starmer intends to govern.”

“It appears that the Labour leadership is indifferent to the impact of its selection choices on minority communities in places like Chingford and Woodford Green. I hope that the needs of the community will be respected and that the Labour Party will not simply parachute in a central party loyalist. Chingford and Woodford Green requires more than someone whose only qualifications are a pulse and a rosette.” 

A spokesperson for Iain Duncan Smith told the Echo that he would not comment on Faiza’s deselection as it was “an internal matter for the Labour Party”.

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