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Kate Whannel,Political reporter

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Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said Sir Keir Starmer is not acting “in a factional way” as a row in the party over candidate selection for 4 July’s general election rages on.

Sir Keir has been accused of carrying out a “purge” of left-wing candidates and parachuting his own supporters into winnable seats.

Veteran left-winger Diane Abbott says she has been banned from standing as a Labour candidate – something Sir Keir denies, insisting no decision has been taken on her future.

Ms Rayner said she saw no reason why Ms Abbott should not be allowed to stand for the party in the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency.

Speaking to Sky News, she described Ms Abbott as a “trailblazer”, adding “it’s not a great look with the way Diane was briefed against”.

Ms Abbott was suspended as a Labour MP in April 2023 after saying Jewish, Irish and Traveller people do not face racism “all their lives”.

She apologised and was readmitted to the parliamentary party following a lengthy investigation.

However, she now says she has been “banned from running” for the party in Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Asked if he was blocking left-wing candidates, Sir Keir said: “No. I’ve said repeatedly over the past two years as we’ve selected our candidates that I want the highest quality candidates.”

He praised Ms Abbott, saying “she overcame incredible challenges to achieve what she achieved in her career.

“She literally carved out the path for others to come into politics and she did all that whilst also being one of the most abused MPs across all political parties.”

Asked about Sir Keir’s reaction to the row, Ms Rayner told Sky News: “I’m pretty certain that Keir would see that as a frustration because actually Keir is not focused on what’s going on in the Labour Party.

“He’s focused on what he would do as prime minister and how he will change the country for the better.”

Asked if there was a purge of left-wing candidates, she said: “I don’t think Keir is acting in a factional way.

“You do have factions in the Labour Party but our party will only succeed if we’re a broad church.”

Ms Rayner’s comments seem to suggest there could be a split between Sir Keir – or his team – and his deputy.

Unless the party can find a way of resolving Ms Abbott’s status, the row risks overwhelming the party’s campaign message.

Conservative chancellor Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: “If Keir Starmer can’t deal with Diane Abbott, how on Earth is he going to deal with Vladimir Putin?”

The Scottish National Party said the way Ms Abbott and other “progressive candidates” had been treated was “shameful”.

Labour candidate shocked after being blocked from standing as candidate

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On Wednesday evening, another left-winger – Faiza Shaheen – was told she had been banned from standing for Labour in Chingford and Woodford Green.

Labour have not publicly commented on the reasons why she was deselected.

Ms Shaheen told BBC Newsnight she had been presented with a series of social media posts she had liked, some dating back years but others more recent, including one which she acknowledged indulged in antisemitic tropes but claimed to have no memory of having liked.

A friend of the politician has said she had instructed a lawyer and is challenging the decision against her.

In a statement released on Thursday, Ms Shaheen said: “This is not the end of my story and I will be releasing all the detail of what has happened to me publicly very soon.”

The decision to deselect Ms Shaheen has been criticised by the Labour Muslim Network as “unacceptable” and the left-wing campaign group Momentum as “vindictive”.

On Wednesday, several candidates loyal to leader Sir Keir Starmer have been confirmed in winnable seats.

Nominations to stand legally close on 7 June and the deadline for Labour branches to put forward their own candidates passed on Monday.

The NEC, Labour’s governing body, will formally approve the party’s full slate of candidates on Tuesday.

Other candidates standing in Chingford and Woodford Green include: Chris Brody for the Green Party, Josh Hadley for the Liberal Democrats, Yousaff Khan for the Workers Party of Britain, Paul Luggeri of Reform UK and Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservative Party.

There are currently known to be two declared candidates in Hackney North and Stoke Newington: Antoinette Fernandez for the Green Party and Rebecca Jones for the Lib Dems.

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