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Paul Seddon & Becky Morton,Political reporters

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Georgia Gould is a councillor in Sir Keir Starmer’s constituency

Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of freezing out left-wingers and promoting his supporters, as Labour heads into the general election.

The party now has a full slate of candidates in place after scrambling to fill vacancies following the surprise announcement that the election is taking place on 4 July.

The process has been dominated by a bitter row over whether veteran MP Diane Abbott, an ally of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, will be allowed to stand.

At the same time, the party has been accused of “parachuting” Starmerite candidates into seats over the wishes of local Labour members.

The full list of candidates will now have to be endorsed at a meeting of the national executive committee (NEC), the party’s ruling body, on Tuesday.

But has Sir Keir really banished the left – and what do the selections tell us about what the party would look like in Parliament if it wins power?

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The Labour leader cannot hire and fire candidates at will – but he does have a lot of power over the kind of people that get chosen.

The vast majority of the party’s election candidates were already in place before the election was called, selected by local branches from centrally-approved longlists.

But the short time before polling day on 4 July has reduced the role of local members, with the national party following an accelerated process to fill target seats, or where MPs are standing down or suspended.

In this case it is a panel of NEC members – a committee dominated by Starmer supporters – who review applications and choose the party’s candidate.

Rise of the Starmerites

The roll call of new faces contains potential clues as to what a Starmer government would look like if the Labour leader enters the doors of Downing Street in five weeks’ time.

Candidates close to the Labour leadership include Heather Iqbal, a former adviser to Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, and Chris Ward, Sir Keir’s former deputy chief of staff.

Mr Ward has been chosen to fight Brighton Kemptown, the seat which was held by Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

The left-winger says he has been made a “sacrificial lamb” after he was suspended by the party this week over a complaint about his behaviour, which he said was “vexatious and politically motivated”.

In Chingford and Woodford Green another figure on the left of the party – Faiza Shaheen – was blocked from standing and replaced with a Starmer supporter.

Shama Tatler, a councillor in Brent, is co-chair of the Labour To Win group, which was launched to support Sir Keir’s leadership after his election.

Getty Images Faiza ShaheenGetty Images

Faiza Shaheen stood as a Labour candidate in 2019

Perhaps the most politically on-brand selection is Georgia Gould, the leader of Sir Keir’s local Camden council and daughter of Blair-era strategist Lord Philip Gould.

As head of the north London authority, she has championed the “mission-driven” approach to governing, with teams organised around broad long-term goals, which Sir Keir has put at the heart of his plan for power.

Policy experts from Starmer-friendly think tank Labour Together are also on the list.

These include Josh Simons, who resigned as a party policy adviser after seven months under Mr Corbyn’s tenure and is now its candidate in the safe seat of Makerfield.

Long-regarded as a sounding board for the Starmerite wing of the party, Labour Together has donated staff to several shadow cabinet ministers and is expected to be influential in shaping the party’s manifesto.

Another candidate from the think tank world is Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, which has a focus on low pay.

PA Media Torsten BellPA Media

Torsten Bell is director of the Resolution Foundation

One other eye-catching feature of recent selections is those who have a military background, perhaps reflecting Sir Keir’s focus on the importance of national security.

These include former Royal Marine Colonel Alistair Carns and RAF pilot Calvin Bailey.

The installation of pro-Starmer candidates – and the blocking of some left-wingers – has led to accusations of a last-minute “purge” before the election.

But the Starmification of the Labour machine has been going on under the radar for some time.

Elections to the NEC in 2020 were a key moment, with Sir Keir solidifying his grip on the committee through the election of candidates who stood on a pro-leadership platform.

Several of these NEC members have now been chosen to fight very winnable parliamentary seats.

Labour To Win activists Luke Akehurst and Gurinder Singh Josan, who have been vocal Starmer supporters, have been chosen as the candidates for North Durham and Smethwick, which both have healthy Labour majorities.

But while the left of the party has no doubt been weakened by the ousting of key figures like Mr Corbyn, it has not been obliterated altogether.

Sir Keir has now said Ms Abbott will be allowed to stand for Labour if she chooses to.

More than 25 members of the Socialist Campaign Group remain Labour candidates, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Richard Burgon and Zarah Sultana.

If Labour wins power, the smaller its majority the more powerful this bloc will be as Sir Keir may have to rely on their votes to pass legislation.

A full list of candidates for all constituencies will be available on the BBC News website when nominations have closed.



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