LABOUR’S selection process for a candidate to stand in a potential by-election has been branded a “complete farce” by a councillor from the area.

Martin Lennon, a Scottish Labour councillor in Rutherglen, said the “top three most popular candidates locally were all blocked” from standing in a potential race to replace Margaret Ferrier, the MP who is facing punishment for breaking Covid laws.

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Lennon said that every party member he had spoken to had been “upset” about the process, which has seen local councillors Mo Razzaq and John Carson excluded while Aberdeen-based Deena Tissera and reported leadership favourite Michael Shanks – who quit Labour in 2019 – were shortlisted.

Amid claims of a “stitch up”, the Rutherglen Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse CLP put in a formal complaint to Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar and leader Keir Starmer.

The two CLPs warned that they "cannot continue campaigning" for the party until their concerns about the selection process are resolved.

And the row has continued to grow as Lennon, a Labour councillor for Rutherglen Central and North, hit out at the “profoundly undemocratic” process.

He told The Daily Record: "I was really quite shocked that the top three most popular candidates locally [Razzaq, Carson, and trade unionist Leah Stalker] were all blocked.

"We haven't really been given any reasons why any of them were blocked. It seems quite profoundly undemocratic."

Lennon went on: "I've not spoken to a single person who's impressed. Everyone I've spoken to is upset.

"Local members pay their subs, deliver leaflets, go out door knocking. Out of the goodness of their heart, they donate their time to the party.

"To see them being disrespected like this is really quite shocking."

Sharing the Record’s story, he added on Twitter: "It is a complete farce that all three of the popular local candidates were blocked, without explanation.

"It is unfair to local members, it is unfair to the candidates and it is unfair to the shortlisted candidates who will not have the opportunity to be selected on merit."

Starmer's Labour has been accused of wielding an iron grip on processes which decide who can stand for the party in elections, excluding local and often left-wing candidates in favour of loyalists.

Shanks, seen as the leadership’s favourite, has previously stood for Labour in Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow North West. He resigned his membership of Labour in 2019.

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A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Selection processes for Labour Party parliamentary candidates are properly administered in full accordance with procedures set by the Scottish Executive Committee.

“Scottish Labour is pleased to have a number of fantastic candidates on the shortlist who will be champions for Rutherglen and Hamilton West.”

The Westminster constituency could face a by-election if Ferrier, the area’s MP who was elected on an SNP ticket, is suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days for breaking Covid laws.

A suspension of longer than 10 days would trigger a recall petition, which if signed by 10% of her constituents would trigger a by-election.

MPs have recommended Ferrier is suspended from the Commons for 30 days, but the formerly SNP parliamentarian is appealing the decision.