Labour candidate withdraws from election race saying allegations ‘becoming a distraction’ | Politics News

A council leader has withdrawn his candidacy to be a Labour MP after allegations of sexual harassment, which he denies.

Darren Rodwell said while he “completely refutes” the claims against him, he “does not want this issue to become a distraction” in the general election campaign.

Mr Rodwell, the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, had been selected for the parliamentary seat of Barking in east London.

Earlier today, Sky News revealed he was expected to be dropped as a candidate following a crunch meeting of the party’s ruling body.

In a statement posted on X, Mr Rodwell said: “I have decided to take the incredibly difficult decision to withdraw my candidacy.

“I completely refute the allegations in the press. I don’t want this issue to become a distraction in the campaign.

“Labour has made clear there is no active investigation into complaints about me.

“But I believe it to be in the best interests of my family at this time to step aside as I have to put my family first.

“This place means the world to me and I will continue to fight for this borough, the community I love and to lead the council.”

Labour confirmed there are no active investigations into Mr Rodwell. A new candidate will now be chosen, in line with selection procedure.

Mr Rodwell first addressed the allegations made about him on Monday, saying in a post on X that he “utterly refutes what has been said”.

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He wrote: “I have not engaged in sexual harassment of any kind. I did not indulge in ‘inappropriate touching’ of an attendee at an event last month.

“I have no recollection of meeting someone for a coffee to discuss development in Barking – there is no evidence of any such meeting in my diary.

“Likewise, I have no recollection of asking personal questions.”

He continued: “It’s not clear what drinks I was ordering, but for the record, I do not drink alcohol.

“It is inconceivable I would have touched someone’s hands, legs and body inappropriately.

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“I can only imagine I am a victim of some sort of attempt to prevent me being selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Barking.

“I am prepared fully to address this complaint, I am in the process of consulting lawyers and I would ask it were expedited so my candidature can proceed.”

Mr Rodwell was not expected to be endorsed by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) following the allegations.

An email from the office of the general secretary, seen by Sky News, said Labour is “not recommending candidates for endorsement” by NEC in Gosport or Barking as there are “outstanding… processes yet to conclude”.

Edward Batterbury, who was the candidate in Gosport, has been contacted for comment.

The NEC is Labour’s key decision-making body and is made up of representatives from across the party movement, including the shadow cabinet, the parliamentary party and trade unions.

This afternoon it met to approve Labour’s list of candidates going into the general election – including Diane Abbott, who has now been confirmed as the party’s candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

It follows the controversy surrounding Ms Abbott, who initially believed she had been barred from standing for Labour following her suspension last year for suggesting that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice rather than racism.

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‘I spoke to Diane two or three months ago’

Ms Abbott issued a swift apology following the comments, but was stripped of the Labour Party whip, forcing her to sit as an independent MP in the Commons.

With the deadline fast approaching for Labour to finalise its candidates, there were mounting questions over Ms Abbott’s future and whether she would be able to run for the party in Hackney North.

The Times then reported last week she had had the whip restored but would be barred from standing in the seat she has held for nearly 40 years.

A backlash against the decision – and the manner in which it was briefed to the media – followed, with Angela Rayner telling Sky News she did not see “any reason” why Ms Abbott could not run for the party on 4 July.

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Sir Keir then declared that Ms Abbott was in fact “free” to run for the party while he praised her reputation as “trailblazer” and the UK’s first female black MP.

Ms Abbott has been critical of the way her case was handled and was one of a number of party figures to accuse the Labour leader of carrying out a “cull” of left-wing former MPs and candidates, after Faiza Shaheen was also blocked in Chingford and Woodford Green and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the former MP for Brighton Kemptown, was suspended after a “serious complaint” was made against him.

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In a social media statement, Mr Russell-Moyle said he believed the “false allegation” was a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint” about his behaviour eight years ago that was “designed to disrupt the election”.

On Tuesday morning Ms Shaheen said she had resigned from Labour, saying she believed her “removal shows that the desires of the local members and my community mean nothing to the people at the top of the party”.

Sir Keir has denied blocking those on the left, saying he simply wants the “highest quality candidates” in the election.

The candidates standing in Gosport are:
Labour – TBC
Conservatives – Caroline Dinenage
Reform UK – Matt Mulliss
Green Party – Tony Sudworth

The candidates standing in Barking are:
Green Party – Simon Ronald Anthony
Liberal Democrats – Charley Hasted
Reform UK – Clive Peacock
Conservatives – Julie Redmond
Workers Party of Britain – Hamid Shah
Labour – TBC

The Electoral Commission deadline to become a candidate for the general election is at 4pm on Friday.


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