Labour unable to shake claims of left-wing ‘purge’ as ex-Tory MP joins

Sir Keir Starmer has not yet shaken claims he is culling the left wing of his party as a former Tory MP who has joined Labour called it a “broad church”.

Mark Logan, who represented Bolton North East for the Conservatives until Parliament was dissolved on Thursday, said he is quitting the Tory party to back Labour at the General Election.

He said he will not stand for re-election but will vote for Labour and join the party.

Mark Logan
Mark Logan (UK Parliament/PA)

Asked if Labour must be moving to the right to attract people like him, he told Sky News: “I think the great thing with the Labour Party today is that it’s a broad church incorporating people from the right of politics and also from the left of politics.”

The party’s election campaign has been overshadowed for two days by accusations that the leadership is attempting to “purge” left-wingers.

The accusations were sparked by uncertainty over whether Diane Abbott will be allowed to defend her seat and then the suspension of Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was MP for Brighton Kemptown, and the decision not to endorse candidate Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and Woodford Green.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ms Abbott had the party whip restored after an investigation into comments about racism, but said she was “dismayed” by reports that she could be barred as a candidate.

She has said she wants to fight to retain her seat “as long as it is possible”.

Sir Keir has repeatedly said no decision has been taken about whether Ms Abbott, who in 1987 became the first black woman elected to Parliament, will be allowed to defend her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat.

But his deputy Angela Rayner went further and said “I don’t think there’s any reason” why Ms Abbott should not stand and the row over her future was “not a great look”.

But Ms Rayner told the Guardian she did not think it was a “purge”.

“I don’t know the details of the individual cases but I do know that we put a robust system in place around vetting and dealing with serious allegations that are made in the party.

“We had to do that because when me and Keir took over the party was failing.”

Mr Russell-Moyle cannot stand in the July 4 election after being suspended by Labour over what he called a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint” against him.

Ms Shaheen is consulting lawyers after being the victim of a “huge injustice” as she was not endorsed as the Labour candidate to take on former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

Sir Keir welcomed Mr Logan’s switch to Labour, saying: “Voters across the country are looking to Labour for change. I am pleased Mark Logan has taken the decision to vote for Labour at this upcoming General Election.

“After 14 years of Tory failure, voters are returning to Labour because they can see that we are a changed party and back in service of working people. It’s time to stop the chaos, turn the page and rebuild Britain.”

Sir Keir recently faced an internal backlash for accepting Tory defector Natalie Elphicke, the former MP for Dover, into the party despite her support for Brexit and accusations over her role in lobbying ministers over her then-husband Charlie’s sexual assault case.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Logan’s decision comes as a blow to Rishi Sunak as he battles to stay in No 10.

The Prime Minister’s party is “unrecognisable” from the party he joined a decade ago, Mr Logan told the BBC.

The Conservative Party said it would select a new candidate in due course.

Also on Friday:

– Mr Sunak will be campaigning in the North West.

– Sir Keir will be in Scotland, where he is launching the logo and website of Great British Energy and promising Scottish voters a “decade of national renewal”.

– The Conservatives are pledging to punish fly-tippers with points on their driving licences and to kick anti-social tenants out of social housing after three strikes.