By-election beckons in Lewisham as Sadiq Khan snatches Heidi Alexander
Who are the early runners and riders in the race for Lewisham East?
Heidi Alexander has confirmed that she will stand down as a Labour MP to take up the role of London's deputy mayor for transport. Her departure means there will be a by-election in the summer, most likely in late June.
But more important – given that Labour currently enjoys a 21,000 majority in Lewisham East – is the selection battle that will precede the by-election.
So who are the runners and riders?
One highly-rated local Labour councillor who could have been a strong contender is Damien Egan. However, he has just been elected as mayor of Lewisham.
First out of the blocks to put themselves forward for the seat was Sakina Sheikh, a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Lewisham local who was only elected as a Labour councillor just a few days ago. In a statement trumpeting her Corbynite credentials, she declared: “Jeremy Corbyn has opened the door to a new kind of Labour party, one which sticks to its principles, opposes neoliberalism and utilises the knowledge and experience of its members.”
Another local activist with a more pedigree is Brenda Dacres. A Labour councillor for New Cross ward since 2014, she came third in the race to be Labour's candidate for Lewisham mayor after running as the only BME and only female candidate.
Labour sources also pointed to the possibility of Corbyn's former aide Katy Clark getting the nod. Clark served two terms as MP for North Ayrshire and Arran before losing her seat and becoming the leader's political secretary. She recently stepped down from that post to lead the “party democracy review”.
Other names in the frame are Nadine Haughton, the GMB organiser and Claudia Webbe, the former chair of the Metropolitan police’s Operation Trident who is now a Labour national executive committee member.
It is thought that there could be an all-women shortlist for Lewisham East. But if not then councillors Kevin Bonavia, Joe Dromey (son of Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey) and Paul Bell may be in with a shout. Bell came second in the Lewisham mayoral race, having had the backing of the local branch of Momentum.
At City Hall, Alexander will replace the long-serving deputy mayor, Val Shawcross, when she retires in the summer.
Trade union official and co-founder of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah has emerged as the front runner.