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Apsana Begum has been the Member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse since 2019
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Will Apsana Begum stand as the Labour Party Candidate for Poplar and Limehouse?

On Tuesday, while the Labour Party grappled with the National Executive Committee, also known as the NEC’s, decision to deselect Faiza Shaheen as candidate for Chingford and Wood Green, and to block Diane Abbott from standing for the party (a decision that has now been reversed) the Spectator published an article entitled ‘Is Apsana Begum next to go from Labour?’.

It detailed a series of Whatsapp messages from members of the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets to the NEC, demanding that they hold a selection vote for Apsana Begum’s seat. The messages claimed that Apsana Begum had ‘not actively engaged in her role, including handling casework’. They also stated that ‘disregarding the voices of members may lead to widespread resignations from the party, an outcome we wish to avoid’.

Apsana Begum was first elected as Labour Party MP for Poplar and Limehouse in 2019. Early in her tenure she faced three allegations of housing fraud, of which she was cleared, followed by two years of sick leave. The Whatsapp messages conceded that this may have contributed to what was described as her ‘lack of visibility and productivity’.

As MP for the constituency with the highest proportion of Muslim residents in the UK, Begum has frequently amplified Muslim concerns in Westminster, and was one of the first to call for the Labour Party to support a ceasefire in Gaza.

Usually, sitting MPs are automatically eligible to stand for their seats in a General Election. However, there is a procedure known as a ‘trigger ballot’ by which local Labour Party members may decide that a candidate should go through the reselection process.

This had been requested of Begum some time ago, however the NEC had clearly not deemed it sufficiently pressing to act upon, and now looks unlikely to do so given the unexpected announcement of the General Election.

Begum, like both Abbott and Shaheen is a woman of colour and a self-described socialist; her colleague Mish Rahman, who also sits on the NEC, told The Slice that it would be madness for Keir Starmer to heed the words of a small number of disgruntled local members by allowing the NEC to deselect Begum.

‘This apparent last-ditch attempt to remove is a disgrace’ says Labour Councillor Bow East Mark Francis. ‘I disagree with her about the Labour Party’s direction but she is the sitting MP and has been denied a chance to contest against whoever these supposed members want instead. She should be the candidate for Poplar and Limehouse. Along with Rushanara and our new candidate in Stratford & Bow, Uma Kumaran, I hope Apsana will be part of a great team of MPs to represent the people of Tower Hamlets in Parliament.’

Ms Begum has, he told us, dealt with 40,000 pieces of casework since she was elected. She has every intention of standing again as the Labour candidate for Poplar and Limehouse.

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