Labour warned over white candidate

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was warned that he risks losing the black and Asian vote if Labour fails to choose an ethnic-minority candidate for England's most racially mixed constituency.

Operation Black Vote wrote to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and members of Labour's national executive committee yesterday calling on them to choose an ethnic- minority candidate to fight a by-election in the London seat of Brent East.

The constituency, which is facing a by-election after the death of Paul Baisley, is a safe Labour seat with 50 per cent of voters from the ethnic minorities. The area'sMEP, Robert Evans, who is white, is expected to stand. He is being supported by senior Labour figures. Shahid Malik, the only ethnic-minority member of the NEC, is also expected to fight for selection. Peter Herbert, the head of the Society of Black Lawyers, might also put his name forward.

The NEC will select a shortlist on Tuesday and the local Brent East party will choose the candidate on Thursday.

Labour has 18 ethnic- minority MPs but Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, said: "Many people feel that this is the last chance for Labour to prove they are serious about getting more ethnic-minority MPs.

"Labour is on the verge of losing black and Asian support. It is the most loyal vote in the country and 85 per cent vote Labour but many have threatened to stay at home and not to vote or move to other parties."