Labour’s long-term candidate for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park has been ruthlessly dumped by the regional party bureaucrats for requesting support as a deaf person!
Here’s the comments posted to Facebook by the former candidate, Lee Starr-Elliot on this latest Labour row
*Statement to explain my no longer standing as your local candidate! *
I am taking the time to write this to explain why after 3 years I am no longer your candidate for Labour! After applying to be a candidate back in 2018, going through the candidate approval process including checks, a panel interview organised by the Bristol Labour Local Campaign Forum (LCF) and endorsement by Bristol Labour members, I was selected by my local ward as their candidate in 2019.
I was very proud of this as I had the best interests of the ward at heart and wanted to bring back a sense of strong local community and ownership to the area, something I’ve felt has been lacking as our current councillors seem to prefer to play party politics rather than focus on the needs of local people.
However, after the pandemic hit and the 2020 elections were delayed, I lost running mates one by one due to personal or work-related issues. In the meantime I continued to move forward, founding the BS14 Community Support Group on Facebook, which has brought together local people, allowing us to help and support each other directly or by sharing helpful information. It made me proud to see BS14 come together in this way and I thank everyone who made it a success and hope it continues.
Most people are aware that I am Deaf. In previous elections, central government has provided the Enable fund to support the access needs of disabled people so that they can run for public office. The government withdrew this for these elections. I sought support from my Regional office, in line with their duties under the Equality Act, for example to provide a BSL interpreter for local, regional and national events and online training. I’m sad to say my request was not even acknowledged.
This led me to filing an official complaint, which has yet to be resolved, despite having the made the complaint nearly 5 months ago! When I asked for assistance with phone banking I was fobbed off and told to get people to volunteer! This put me at a serious disadvantage as many other people across all parties were able to phonebank, leaving me as the only one unable to do so, as by this stage the other candidates had withdrawn.
As people may understand, I became increasingly frustrated and angry that I was being discriminated this way and I took to social media to call out bad practices and condemn the leadership for failures in supporting members. Instead, they were busy suspending members for supporting the local members’ right to debate and offer solidarity to the suspended previous leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn!
While all this was happening, the regional office of the Labour Party was preventing constituency party groups from carrying out democratically agreed actions such as supporting food banks with financial donations from the members’ fund. Regional staff even went as far as suspending the AGM of a nearby constituency party and announcing they would run it months later – allowing them time to install their preferred members into positions. When they eventually ran the AGM it was shambolic and clearly designed to exclude members’ voices!
Similarly, the selection of the West of England Mayoral candidate was decided undemocratically, with the previous candidate Lesley Mansell and other left-leaning candidates excluded from the membership ballot by a regional panel. This has clearly backfired on the local party, as members are not happy to campaign for someone who while he was an MP voted for the Iraq War and is clearly against helping people such as students!!
It seems that by standing up for myself against discrimination and calling out where the party is failing nationally and regionally and when it is bullying the membership, this has resulted in the Labour Party refusing to endorse me at the local elections on May 6th. I would like to acknowledge the support of a small group of candidates and supporters who are leading the fight both locally and nationally against actions of politicians from all parties in order to make Bristol and the country better.
I wouldn’t have got this far without them, as the discrimination I’ve faced as a candidate and a person within politics is emotionally breaking. However, I will continue to be as loud as possible and call out actions of councillors and MPs who are not transparent and are not working for the people who voted for them but are instead following the party line. I thank everyone who has supported me and were going to vote for me!