7 Labour MPs Stand Down as Fertility Entrepreneur Picked to Face Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour Party has been rushing through the selection of candidates to fight the general election on July 4 and one of them will challenge Mr. Corbyn.
7 Labour MPs Stand Down as Fertility Entrepreneur Picked to Face Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) and Sir Keir Starmer, shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU, look on prior to delivering a Brexit speech at the Harlow Hotel in Harlow, England, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Chris Summers

Seven veteran Labour MPs have stood down in the past few days, paving the way for Sir Keir Starmer to impose candidates on a number of safe seats.

It comes after Labour picked Praful Nargund, an entrepreneur in the fertility industry, to challenge former leader Jeremy Corbyn in his Islington North stronghold.

The selection, announced on Friday, is one of a string of late picks made by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in which candidates have been imposed on local activists.

Over the last few days seven Labour MPs—Virendra Sharma, Julie Elliott, John Cryer, John Spellar, Kevin Brennan, Barbara Keeley, and Lyn Brown—announced they were retiring, which opens the way for more imposed candidates.

After Ms. Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, announced she was stepping down on Tuesday morning, veteran political journalist Michael Crick wrote on social media platform X: “Elliott is the sixth Labour MP to announce their retirement in the past two days. Why aren’t more people asking why so many of these retirements are so last minute?”

A few hours later Ms. Brown, 64, stood down as MP for West Ham and Beckton.

Labour argues that with the election less than six weeks away, there is not time to run a proper selection.

But Mr. Crick pointed out that in February 2020, before he became Labour leader, Sir Keir wrote on X: “The selections for Labour candidates needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local party members should select their candidates for every election.”

Mr. Crick wrote: “He seems to have changed his tune, or perhaps the NEC over-ruled him given that the likely winners include several NEC members?”

Starmer Denies ‘Cherry-Picking’ Candidates

In the wake of the selection of Mr. Nargund, a little known businessman who only became a councillor in 2022, Sir Keir was asked if he was “cherry-picking” candidates.

Sir Keir told broadcasters: “Jeremy Corbyn’s days of influencing Labour Party policy are well and truly over. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision is his decision. What I’m intent on doing is putting first class Labour candidates in Islington North, which we have now done.”

Mr. Corbyn, who turned 75 this week, has represented Islington North for 40 years but he was blocked from standing as a Labour candidate last year after a motion by the NEC.

When he decided to stand as an independent candidate against Labour’s man he was expelled from the party.

But Sir Keir, who sat in Mr. Corbyn’s shadow Cabinet for three years, defended his decision to ban Mr. Corbyn from standing as the Labour candidate, saying it was part of his effort to “tear anti-Semitism out of our party by the roots.”

Mr. Corbyn has repeatedly refused to fully accept the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s findings that the party broke the law when he was in charge.

The former leader has claimed reports of anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”

Mr. Corbyn, who had a 26,000 majority in Islington North in 2019, said he would stand as “an independent voice for equality, democracy, and peace.”

The left-wing campaign group Momentum accused Sir Keir of treating the people of Islington “with contempt,” and said he was “driving out the socialist politics he represented, in favour of elite interests.”

But the Campaign Against Antisemitism welcomed Mr. Corbyn’s expulsion from Labour, with a spokesperson saying: “Good riddance. The man who made the Jewish community feel so unwelcome in Labour has finally been told that he is unwelcome in the party he once led.”

Labour MP Claudia Webbe (L), who has since been expelled from the party, arrives with her partner Lester Thomas at The City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Nov. 4, 2021. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Labour MP Claudia Webbe (L), who has since been expelled from the party, arrives with her partner Lester Thomas at The City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Nov. 4, 2021. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Several people who put their names forward for the Islington North seat, including journalists Paul Mason and Christian Wolmar and Enfield councillor and Unison campaigner Margaret Greer, were omitted from Labour’s shortlist for the vacancy.

‘Egregiously Undemocratic’

On X, Islington North Labour Party wrote, “This is the final stage in an egregiously undemocratic selection process.”

“The actions of the Labour Party have fallen far short of its stated democratic standards,” it added.

But after his selection, Mr. Nargund said: “It’s an honour to have been chosen as Labour’s candidate for Islington North and I look forward to the campaign ahead. I promise to be a truly local MP, that represents all families and businesses that call this special place their home.”

With his wife Geeta, an expert in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), Mr. Nargund runs a company called CREATE Fertility, which claims to be the fastest growing IVF company in the world.

Another former Labour MP, Claudia Webbe, has said she will stand as an independent candidate in Leicester East.

Ms. Webbe was expelled from the Labour Party in 2021 after receiving a criminal conviction for harassing a love rival.

PA Media contributed to this report.
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.