MP's one-vote win splits Govan

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The Independent Online
The bitter battle to win the Labour nomination to contest the new Glasgow Govan seat at the next general election worsened yesterday when Mike Watson, the MP for Glasgow Central, won the constituency ballot by a single vote.

Mr Watson beat his rival Mohammed Sarwar, a millionaire Pakistani businessman and councillor, after an acrimonious two-year battle which tarnished "New Labour's" image. Mr Watson said he was delighted with the result despite the narrow majority. But Mr Sarwar refused to accept the outcome. He claimed 52 ballot papers had been disqualified "on spurious grounds". Raising the spectre of renewed internal Labour Party conflict, he insisted he would ask the party's National Executive Committee to overturn the result and order a new vote. He also planned a legal challenge.

Mr Sarwar said: "I'm definitely not accepting these results. I will be appealing to the national executive. I think it is extremely unfair when there are 52 members of the Labour Party who have participated in this selection, in just one go one person makes a decision and says 52 are not eligible to vote."

Although Mr Sarwar did not allege racism when the result was announced in stormy scenes in Glasgow, his supporters did.

Muhammed Shoaib, the constituency party's vice-chairman, said: "The whole campaign has been unfair. We have been victimised in Manchester, in Birmingham Small Heath, and here today as well. There is a clear message from the Labour Party that a Muslim or Pakistan background is not on."

During the contest, which was triggered by the Boundary Commission's decision to axe Mr Watson's seat and replace it with the new Govan constituency, the two men became embroiled in allegations of slander, racism and dirty tricks.

Mr Watson's left-wing supporters cast doubt on Mr Sarwar's business practices, his background and his claim to be a Socialist. Mr Sarwar responded by accusing Mr Watson's followers of lying about his record as an employer and breaking party rules.

Jimmy Allison, the retired organiser of the Scottish Labour Party, yesterday described the contest as "the dirtiest ever".