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‘Outrage and disbelief’ at Labour decision not to shortlist prominent campaigner as candidate for Norwich North seat

PUBLISHED: 09:06 03 December 2017 | UPDATED: 21:44 03 December 2017

Jo Rust. Picture: IAN BURT

Jo Rust. Picture: IAN BURT

More than 150 activists have expressed their “outrage and disbelief” at Labour’s decision not to shortlist a prominent Norfolk campaigner for the key Norwich North parliamentary seat.

Jo Rust at a protest march. Picture: MATTHEW USHER Jo Rust at a protest march. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

Writer Owen Jones and former city MP Ian Gibson are among the 161 signatories to a letter protesting that Jo Rust is not on the final ballot for the party’s imminent selection of a parliamentary candidate in the constituency.

Mrs Rust - who grew up in Norwich - has been a leading Labour and trade union campaigner across the county for several years, standing twice in North West Norfolk and raising Labour’s share by more than 9pc each time.

She has played a leading role as a union organiser in East Anglia and narrowly missed out to Jessica Asato on being selected as parliamentary candidate for Norwich North in 2015.

Under Labour Party rules, anyone with more than a year’s continuous membership can apply for selection as a parliamentary candidate and solicit support from ward branches and affiliated organisations ahead of a ballot of members.

Owen Jones is one of the signatories to a letter protesting against the decision not to shortlist Jo Rust for the Norwich North parliamentary selection. Picture: MATTHEW USHER Owen Jones is one of the signatories to a letter protesting against the decision not to shortlist Jo Rust for the Norwich North parliamentary selection. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

Any endorsements are taken into account when the selection panel meets to decide on the final shortlist, which can include up to six candidates and a balance of female representation.

Mrs Rust’s supporters claim she was the favourite candidate in each ward branch and was backed by four trade unions, three of which are officially affiliated to the CLP.

She was also endorsed by shadow health secretary John Ashworth, who said he “could not be happier to hear Jo is going for Norwich North”, adding: “She has helped to shape Labour Party policy.”

But her name is not on the final shortlist, which protestors believe “rides roughshod over those principles and makes a mockery of the idea of a member-led Labour Party”.

Dr Ian Gibson. Picture: BILL SMITH Dr Ian Gibson. Picture: BILL SMITH

They also claim she has not been given feedback she is entitled to about why the decision was made.

A spokesperson for the East of England Labour Party said: “The Labour Party does not comment on candidate selection processes.”

The letter read: “We, the undersigned, write to express our outrage and disbelief at the undemocratic exclusion of Jo Rust from the shortlist of the Norwich North selection.

“Some of us intended to vote for Jo in the selection, some of us hadn’t made up our minds and some of us had planned to support another candidate.

Jo Rust. Picture: Ian Burt Jo Rust. Picture: Ian Burt

“However, we are all united in demanding transparent processes and a fair contest.

“The total lack of public justification for this decision gives us no confidence in the probity of the process and leads to the unavoidable conclusion that Jo was excluded for political reasons alone.

“We appeal to the general secretary and the National Executive Committee (NEC) to urgently review and then reverse this decision.”

The signatories also include Jonathan Dunning, UNISON Norfolk branch secretary and UNISON eastern regional convenor Becky Tye, as well as several members from Norwich North and other Norfolk constituencies.

Mrs Rust said: “I don’t think it’s right for me to make any comment.

“Obviously I was disappointed I wasn’t shortlisted but I look forward to see Norwich North go Labour - and that is a genuine, heartfelt desire.”

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