Lewisham East by-election: the runners and riders

As Lewisham's Heidi Alexander steps down, we profile the contenders to replace her in the South East London seat of Lewisham East.

Heidi Alexander has stood down as an MP today to become Sadiq Khan’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, opening up a race for selection as Labour’s candidate for Lewisham East. With a majority of 21,000 in last year’s general election, whoever is selected for Labour will almost certainly become the London constituency’s MP.

Labour have not yet decided the details of the contest, and some are speculating that it will be an all-women shortlist or even a BME-only shortlist for the first time.

We have profiled the candidates who are being talked about as possible replacements for Alexander.

Likely candidates

Sakina Sheikh

The only candidate to so far declare, she has secured the support of Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani and Michael Walker (although that didn’t do Jon Lansman any good).

She has campaigned against private services in the NHS, and was once interviewed by Russia Today as an ‘anti-TTIP activist.’

She was only elected for the first time as councillor for Perry Vale ward in Lewisham on Thursday, so it may be too early for her this time.

Kevin Bonavia

The Blackheath councillor and Lewisham Cabinet Member for Democracy, Refugees & Accountability is in charge of making Lewisham Council more accountable to the public and providing a safe haven for refugees.

A solicitor by trade, Bonavia contested the safe Conservative seat of Rochford and Southend East for Labour in 2010.

He is a member of Unite and the Co-operative Party.

Joe Dromey

Another Lewisham councillor, Dromey is well-known as the son of Labour MPs Jack Dromey and Harriet Harman. His election would make history for the first mother, father and son MPs to serve in the House of Commons together.

Dromey worked for Angela Eagle while she was Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Business Secretary, and now leads the centre-left think tank IPPR’s work on employment and skills.

He job shares as Lewisham Cabinet Member for Finance, Skills, and Jobs, and recently appeared on Ed Miliband’s podcast to discuss trade union reform.

Katy Clark

The former MP for North Ayrshire and Arran is thought to be desperate to return to The Commons as an MP, but failed to be selected for the 2017 General Election (apparently due to a disastrous intervention by Jeremy Corbyn’s Chief of Staff, Karie Murphy, backfiring).

Currently working for Corbyn as his Political Secretary, she is also overseeing the Labour Party’s Democracy Review to give more power to Labour members. Ironically, her best chance of being selected in Lewisham is a traditional stitch-up by the Party’s top brass.

Nadine Houghton

Named by The Guardian as another ‘leftwing’ name in the frame, Houghton is an organiser for the GMB and previously worked for PCS and Battersea & Wandsworth Trades Council.

Houghton is a former member of The Socialist Party (previously, Militant) who once wrote in an Alliance of Workers’ Liberty (AWL) pamphlet on Labour, ‘what has it done?’ Despite this, Houghton was approved by Southwark Labour to stand as a council candidate in the borough.

Claudia Webbe

Webbe’s CV includes roles as former chair of Operation Trident for the Metropolitan Police, policy advisor to Ken Livingstone in City Hall, and councillor in Islington (one of the few candidates who aren’t local).

Her association with Livingstone could harm her chances- she wrote a letter published in The Guardian defending the former Mayor after he compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

As a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, Webbe will have a say in the rules and timetable for the selection, unless she recuses herself.

Brenda Dacres

Lost the contest for Labour’s candidate for Lewisham Mayor last year to Damien Egan, despite backing from Dromey and Lord Roy Kennedy.

Dacres was recently appointed by Egan to a job share as Lewisham Cabinet member for Parks, Neighbourhoods, and Transport, and is a councillor in New Cross.

Tom Copley

Labour’s Housing Spokesperson in City Hall is widely admired for his grasp on what is arguably the most important brief in London.

Copley lives in the constituency and was recently elected as a local councillor in Sydenham. As one of the few Assembly Members to back Sadiq Khan in 2015, he might also expect some assistance from the Mayor.

Unlikely to stand

Miatta Fahnbulleh

The highly-regarded Director of left-wing think tank, The New Economics Foundation, and Lewisham East resident recently impressed in an appearance on BBC Question Time. However, the former-Ed Miliband policy advisor has recently given birth and is believed to have told friends that the timing is wrong for her on this occasion.

Seb Dance

MEP for London and former-SpAd to Shaun Woodward working on the Northern Ireland brief, Dance is said to be calling local activists to test the water.

Len Duvall

The Labour group leader in City Hall is thought to be interested in the role, but can’t count on the support of the Mayor he works with thanks to his comment during that 2015 campaign. The two have had a fractured relationship since Khan’s campaign criticised Duvall for “singling out the Muslim community” and dividing “London and Londoners.”

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