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Hackney councillor sets sights on Brent Central seat

CONTENDERS: Dawn Butler. Patrick Vernon and Amina Ali

THE NEXT General Election might be more than two years away but a battle over a key north London constituency has already started.

Popular black and other ethnic minority activists and campaigners within the Labour Party are stepping up their efforts to be selected to stand in Brent Central.

Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon, Amina Ali who started the Muslim Women for Labour and former Brent South MP Dawn Butler have all declared their ambitions to take on incumbent MP Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather.

Brent Central has been earmarked as one of the 106 key seat for the Labour to win at the 2015 election.

Labour had previously selected candidates for the constituency using an all-Women Shortlist, but will be opting for an open shortlist this time around.

The move allows the likes of Vernon, who was awarded an OBE for his contributions to health, to become a contender.

The 51-year-old who was previously shortlisted for the Manchester Central seat spoke of the need for more black politicians.

Having worked in the London borough of Brent for the past 13 years, Vernon said he "understand what the area needs."

He told The Voice: " I think Labour needs a breath of fresh air and I can be that."

Fellow candidate, Ali, made a similar claim. “I can be a unifying candidate," said Ali, a former BBC Journalist recently shortlisted to stand in the Middlesborough by –election.

The divorced mother-of-two hopes to become the first MP of Somali heritage.

She said she was best placed to represent the people of Brent Central because she was " a real person".

“I live an ordinary life," she said.

"There are people out there that believe politicans are not real but I want them to know I am a real person. There are people like me who understand [what they're going through]."

The long-standing activist, who started the Somali Friends of Labour, currently works as a welfare advisor for Tower Hamlets Law Centre, added: “I understand the issues in Brent. I have been canvassing in Brent for a while now."

The three candidates now have a few months to win votes from Labour members in Brent Central which has a high percentage of black voters.

Though the 2011 Census for parliamentary constituencies is yet to be released, previous data shows the black population was 29,652 in 2001.

According to a claim made by a Labour source, the selection process could begin as early as September.

If one of this trio is to be selected, their aim would be to unseat Teather who beat Labour rival Butler in 2010.

Teather had previously represented Brent East seat while Butler held the Labour-stronghold seat of Brent South, but both seats were abolished and Brent Central was created.

The Lib Dem won by 1,345 votes.

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