LABOUR rebels in Rotherham are threatening to refuse to campaign for the party’s official candidate, selected to fight the by-election in town at the end of the month.
Sarah Champion, chief executive of Bluebell Wood children’s hospice in North Anston, was chosen to fight for the seat left vacant after the resignation of disgraced MP Denis MacShane.
But at a stormy selection meeting at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium at least 60 party members walked out, claiming Ms Champion was an ‘outside’ candidate and popular town councillor Mahroof Hussain had been shunned.
Ms Champion moved to Rotherham in 2008 but before that worked for 12 years at an arts centre in Manchester.
Activists said the party was determined to select a woman – the only other name on the shortlist was ex-RAF Wing Commander Sophy Gardner.
One of the protesters said if the party hierarchy wanted to parachute in an outsider, the hierarchy could do the campaigning.
“We in the community should have had a say in the candidate. This is not democracy. If they had wanted a woman, they should have told us they wanted a woman, and we would have found someone locally.”
Six candidates have now been chosen to fight what is expected to be a tight contest on Thursday, November 29.
Self-employed Michael Beckett has been selected for the Liberal Democrats, while businessman Simon Wilson will stand for the Conservatives.
Former miner Ralph Dyson has been selected by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, former journalist Yvonne Ridley has been named by Respect and Marlene Guest by the BNP.