Blocked Labour candidate accuses party of ‘racism, Islamophobia and bullying’

Faiza Shaheen
Ms Shaheen allegedly liked a series of social media posts that downplayed anti-Semitism accusations - See Li / Alamy Stock Photo

A Left-wing Labour candidate blocked from standing at the general election has accused the party of a “systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia and bullying”.

Faiza Shaheen, an economist and academic, was selected to be Labour’s candidate in the north-east London constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green.

On Wednesday night, she found out that she will not be endorsed by the party. She had allegedly liked a series of social media posts that downplayed anti-Semitism accusations.

It comes amid a separate row about whether Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, will be allowed to run again as a Labour candidate.

Ms Shaheen hinted on Thursday that she would run as an independent as she suggested she would take legal action against Labour.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday night, Ms Shaheen said: “I am heartbroken at this decision, but it does not come as a surprise. It is the end of a systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia and bullying from some within the party which began when I first announced that I wanted to run for Labour again.”

She claimed that she had been “singled out for unfair treatment”, such as being banned from speaking about racism she suffered within the party and being told to “curb the attitude” when she suggested Labour wasn’t sufficiently addressing concerns of the Muslim community.

Ms Shaheen added that she had not experienced such “relentless hostility” even from the Conservatives and said she had met with her legal team to “discuss her next steps”.

Ms Shaheen said she had thought she would be able to remain as the Labour candidate for the constituency, but got an email on Wednesday evening to confirm otherwise. She claimed the email told her that she would “frustrate Labour’s purpose”.

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight, she said she was in a “state of shock”, adding: “There’s so many people that have helped me.

“My phone is blowing up with local people trying to organise a rally, and I just want to thank my old school teachers and the kids that came out tonight and I’m so sorry. I’m genuinely so sorry that it’s come to this. I know you really wanted me to be your MP, and I really wanted that too.”

She insisted she did not remember liking one of the social media posts she was called upon by Labour, which alleged that anyone critical of Israel is “assailed” by “professional organisations” who “every time” inflict “non-stop harassment” and “accuse you of anti-Semitism”.

Responding to the decision to block Ms Shaheen from standing, Ms Abbott, who claims she is banned from standing as a Labour candidate, said: “Appalling. Whose clever idea has it been to have a cull of Left-wingers?”

Ms Shaheen replied: “Thank you so much for your support, you’re my hero x.”

The Labour Muslim Network was among Left-wing groups to criticise the ruling, saying: “The deselection of Faiza Shaheen is unacceptable. To use her tweets accounting for personal experiences of Islamophobia as evidence for deselection is utterly outrageous.”

A spokesman for Momentum, the Left-wing pressure group, accused Labour of “institutional racism”, adding: “This is a purge. Left-wing women of colour like Diane Abbott and Faiza Shaheen are being targeted for deselection by Team Starmer, against the wishes of their local parties.

“Outrageously, Faiza’s discussions of her own experiences of Islamophobia within Labour as a Muslim woman have been weaponised against her in a textbook case of institutional racism.”

Labour insists no final decision has been made about whether Ms Abbott will be allowed to stand for the party in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, which she has represented since becoming the first black female MP in 1987.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, denied on Thursday that he was blocking Left-wing candidates, telling Sky News: “No. I’ve said repeatedly over the last two years as we’ve selected our candidates that I want the highest quality candidates. That’s been the position for a very long time.”