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Labour defectors shuffle the political pack in Barking and Dagenham ahead of May elections

PUBLISHED: 14:46 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:46 27 March 2014

Labour Cllr Daren Rodwell at Barking town hall

Labour Cllr Daren Rodwell at Barking town hall

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Labour has seen six of its members cast off the red rosette and move to parties on either side of the political spectrum in as many months.

Cllr Tariq Saeed and Cllr Graham LetchfordCllr Tariq Saeed and Cllr Graham Letchford

Four have gone on to join Nigel Farage’s fast-rising UK Independence party while the other two have taken a step to the left and joined Arthur Scargill’s trade union supporting Socialist Labour Party.

But is this a sign that Ed Miliband’s party is losing its grip on Barking and Dagenham?

Party spokesman and chair of the local candidate forum Cllr Darren Rodwell claims nothing could be further from the truth.

Speaking to the Post he said all of the recent defectors had failed Labour’s two-stage reselection process to stand as candidates for the party in the upcoming May local election.

Cllr Dee Hunt and Cllr Rob DouglasCllr Dee Hunt and Cllr Rob Douglas

The process, adopted in 2010, requires would-be candidates to be interviewed by a panel of party members from outside the borough before having their case work reviewed by a group of local community peers.

“These people at different periods throughout the process failed to get reselected for various reasons,” said Cllr Rodwell.

“But ultimately it was because the party didn’t feel they had done enough work within the community.”

He added: “We don’t have any concern [about losing members] because these are people who we have felt weren’t good enough.

Cllr Jim McDermott and Cllr Barry PoultonCllr Jim McDermott and Cllr Barry Poulton

“Those going to UKIP are going under a flag of convenience.

“If Ukip feel there are good enough for their party that’s fine but it shows you how far behind they are compared to us.”

The Alibon ward councillor also accused Ukip of adopting an immigration policy akin to that of the British Nationalist Party.

His comments come just a week after Cllr Tariq Saeed became the first Asian councillor to defect to Ukip in the borough, following in the wake of Cllrs Rob Douglas, Dee Hunt and Graham Letchford.

The practising Muslim defended his decision to move to Ukip, telling the Post: “Ukip is not a racist party. Ukip is saying we aren’t gaining anything while we are in the European Union. We want to put the British people first.”

Responding to Cllr Rodwell’s comments, Cllr Dee Hunt, of Mayesbrook Ward, said she left Labour in December last year because she felt she was unable “to say what I wanted to say” and had already considered defecting before being deselected.

The part-time doctor’s surgery receptionist who has been a councillor for 12 years added: “People are fed up with unfulfilled Labour promises. We have got a voice now, we can speak up for the people we represent.”

After Cllrs Jim McDermott and Brian Poulton moved to the Socialist Labour Party earlier this month, party president Andrew Jordan branded Labour a “sinking ship”.

SLP general secretary Kin Singleton also claimed her party had had a “number of enquiries” from “disaffected Labour people in the borough”.

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