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Will Labour select a black candidate to run Brent Central?

DAWN BUTLER: The former MP could be one of the frontrunners for the Brent Central seat in two years’ time

THE FIGHT for Brent Central is warming up following a decision by Sarah Teather to step down at the next General Election.

The Liberal Democrat’s impending departure has opened the door for Labour to win the northwest London seat which has a majority BME population, and is a key target for the party.

Teather, a former children’s minister, has a strong track record against her Labour rivals.

The 39-year-old who entered parliament a decade ago beat Robert Evans in Brent East during a by-election and held 47.5 per cent of the vote in 2005.

At the 2010 general election, when Brent East and Brent South were abolished to create Brent Central, she unseated Dawn Butler after winning 44.2 per cent of the vote.

The political heavyweight who made an announcement this month to leave her seat in two years time could put any potential Labour candidate at an advantage.

However, Labour’s delay in selecting a candidate for the constituency – where British Africans are the largest voting group – has raised fears among black hopefuls that they have been left with no time to attract support.

A breakdown of data provided last month by the Operation Black Vote (OBV), shows that BME groups make up to 84,180 of the population.

To date former Labour MP Dawn Butler, Amina Ali and Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon have thrown their hats in the ring.

Brent Council leader Mohammed Butt is also expected to make a bid.

Responding to Teather’s decision, Vernon a councillor from Queensbridge in Hackney said he “understands” and “appreciates” why the former Islington councillor resigned as a Lib Dem MP.

In a written statement, the active councillor said: “Some people have said that there should be a by-election as she may not be committed to Brent over the next 20 months.”

Vernon who hopes to fill the space vacated by Teather in 2015, urged members of Brent Central’s Labour Party to choose a candidate “who has a track record working in Brent to build and mobilise an election campaign based on social justice, fighting against the growing inequality facing residents and challenging the massive cuts to public services by the Coalition government. Also the selected candidate has to be transparent and accountable to restore confidence as a public servant to the community.”

Desmond Jaddoo, a community activist from Birmingham told The Voice that selecting among the pool of available black candidates is “about reflecting the democratic make up of the area.”

The community worker and entrepreneur argued that by choosing a black candidate, Labour “would assist in developing better political engagement with members of the black community and show an embracement of diversity which political party give a lip service at most times.”

Jaddoo who has “argued long for parties to reflect the make-up of the area they want to represent”, believes the failure to pick a person that truly represents the emerging black community in Brent Central will cost the Labour party dearly.
He said: “When we went to vote, our parents stood over us and said ‘vote Labour’, but that’s not happening anymore. People are a lot smarter now and they need to identify with people before asking for their vote.”

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