Labour block councillor from MP race after 'liking' Nicola Sturgeon tweet

Keir Starmer's Labour Party has been criticised after it blocked a local councillor from running to be an MP <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Keir Starmer's Labour Party has been criticised after it blocked a local councillor from running to be an MP (Image: PA)

A LABOUR councillor has said her party blocked her from standing to become an MP in part because she had “liked” a tweet from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Lauren Townsend, who represents Bletchley West on Milton Keynes City Council, hit out at the “unfair blocking” in a statement posted to Twitter late on Saturday.

She said that liking a tweet about Sturgeon testing negative for Covid-19 had been listed among the evidence put forward to stop her standing in Milton Keynes North at the next General Election.

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Townsend wrote: “Last night I received the devastating news from Labour that I can no longer stand to represent my home constituency of Milton Keynes North.

“I am deeply disappointed and hurt that I will not be able to put forward my vision for our city to local party members in a democratic contest. Despite the support of six affiliated trade unions which should have secured my place on the longlist, I am not the candidate who was invited to stand for the seat, and now find myself blocked from advancing.

“I understand that in other places people have rightly been blocked from standing for social media posts that are racist or anti-semitic. I therefore want to place firmly on record that the accusations against me do not involve any such material and it is deeply disturbing to me that colleagues, friends and residents could be given that impression by this ruling.

“The accusations against me include having once ‘liked’ a tweet by Nicola Sturgeon saying she had tested negative for Covid under the heading ‘likes of opposition parties’, and an article I wrote advocating for a Green New Deal, a campaign I've been proud to be a part of.”

Townsend is the spokesperson for the "Labour for a Green New Deal" grassroots campaign, which had also endorsed her bid to stand to become an MP.

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Scottish Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba spoke out in support of Townsend, saying party members had been “denied a choice”.

Villalba wrote: “Cllr Lauren Townsend is a proud trade unionist and fierce campaigner.

“Labour members have been denied a choice and Milton Keynes North has been denied her strong socialist voice.

“This is not what democracy looks like.”

The Labour-linked campaign group Momentum said it was “disgraceful” that Townsend had “been blocked from standing as [an] MP so the leadership can stitch it up for a right winger”.

Chris Curtis, a pollster for Opinium, is still in the running to become the next Labour candidate for Townsend’s area of Milton Keynes North.

Townsend had the backing of trade unions Aslef, CWU, FBU, Unison, Unite and the TSSA.

Curtis has the backing of the Usdaw shopworkers union.

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It comes after Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South, demanded to see the details of the vote that saw him deselected in his constituency.

Tarry, who is in a relationship with Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, said the contest had been a “manufactured political circus” and he wanted further information to be “assured of the integrity of the result”.

It came after he was sacked from Labour's frontbench after ignoring Keir Starmer's orders against joining picket lines of striking workers.

The National has approached the Labour Party for comment.