Labour in-fighting deepens as hard-left activist Salma Yaqoob launches mayoral bid
A hard left activist who has run against Labour in three general elections has joined the fight to be the party's candidate for West Midlands Mayor.
Momentum-backed Salma Yaqoob has announced she is running for the Labour nomination, pledging to fight for a West Midlands "that working families can afford".
Her candidacy has opened up divisions between the party's hard left and moderate factions, with deputy leader Tom Watson criticising the Momentum leadership for supporting someone who has repeatedly stood against Labour in the past.
Ms Yaqoob, an NHS worker and former Birmingham councillor, was leader of the anti-war Respect Party when she stood against Labour in general elections in 2005 and 2010.
She also stood as an independent in the 2017 election, finishing third behind Labour in Bradford West after a campaign which saw her criticised by Labour's head office for claiming she was a pro-Corbyn candidate.
The party has a history of expelling members who oppose Labour at the ballot box, recently kicking out Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell for voting Lib Dem in the European elections.
Launching her campaign with an attack on Tory Mayor Andy Street, Ms Yaqoob said: "This race is about people versus money. We've got people, they've got money."
During a controversial career in politics she has been criticised for describing the 7/7 London terror attack as "reprisal events", and refusing to honour a heroic marine injured during the conflict in Afghanistan.
She has also received death threats from extremist Islamist groups for engaging in western politics, and was threatened with having her throat cut in an online article by a far-right extremist.
Ms Yaqoob quit the Respect Party in 2012 over comments made by its only MP George Galloway regarding rape allegations made against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Ms Yaqoob's candidacy has been endorsed by Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who this week moved to scrap Labour's student wing amid claims it represents the more centrist side of the party.
West Bromwich East MP Mr Watson said: "Jon has forgiven Salma Yaqoob for standing against the Labour Party in elections, the last time two years after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader.
"Sadly, he can’t forgive Labour Students and their campaigns for Labour victories over several decades. So he has had them abolished."
Ms Yaqoob joins union-backed Dudley councillor Pete Lowe – who is billing himself as the anti-austerity candidate – and Birmingham MP Liam Byrne in the race to become Labour's candidate.
A Labour source told the Express & Star: "It is incredible that someone who has shown extreme disloyalty towards Jeremy Corbyn by standing against Labour candidates should now find themselves being supported for Mayor.
"If Pete Lowe stays in the race there is also a real risk of the left vote being split."