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Left-wing candidates uproot Labour centrists at Hackney South and Shoreditch party AGM after membership soars

PUBLISHED: 11:44 23 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:37 23 June 2017

Heather Mendick, L, is the new secretary of Hackney South and Shoreditch Labour Party. Right, Dr Coral Jones is the new chair. Pictures: Heather Mendick/Save Our Surgeries

Heather Mendick, L, is the new secretary of Hackney South and Shoreditch Labour Party. Right, Dr Coral Jones is the new chair. Pictures: Heather Mendick/Save Our Surgeries

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Left-wingers loyal to Jeremy Corbyn swept the board at last night’s Hackney South and Shoreditch Labour Party AGM, clearing aside the centrists who have dominated the party’s local top table in recent years.

Membership of the local party more than trebled from its pre-Corbyn figure of about 900 to 3,000 ahead of the election. The figure has surged again in the weeks since June 8 but a more up-to-date figure is not available.

Appointments included GP and activist Dr Coral Jones (chair), Heather Mendick (secretary) and Patrick Spence (treasurer). Every single candidate endorsed on a “slate” circulated by a group calling itself Hackney South Grassroots Left was elected.

They replaced Cllr Sem Moema (the outgoing chair, who stood for vice-chair but was defeated), Cllr Rob Chapman (vice-chair, membership, who stood and was defeated) and stalwart treasurer Samantha Lloyd (who also stood and was defeated).

Some 200 members of the party turned out to vote at the AGM at the Salvation Army building in Lower Clapton Road. A few years ago, typical turnout was less than a tenth of that figure.

A 'slate' circulated by 'Hackney South Grassroots Left' ahead of the AGM endorsing specific candidates - every single one of whom was elected.A 'slate' circulated by 'Hackney South Grassroots Left' ahead of the AGM endorsing specific candidates - every single one of whom was elected.

A source told the Gazette: “I’ve never seen a meeting so packed out.

“Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, the meetings have got more and more busy.

“Fifteen years ago, there were about 15 people desperately cobbling it together.”

He added: “I’m not terribly happy about one side of the party taking all of the posts – but it’s been the other [side up to now]. It’s a healthy part of democracy.”

New secretary Heather Mendick, a freelance academic with a background in maths teaching, popular culture and social justice, played down the suggestion one side had triumphed over the other.

“We have to take this party forward together,” she said. Asked whether the shift in the party could spell trouble for its centrist MP Meg Hillier, she pointed out many of the Momentum-backed candidates had been out canvassing for her. “I don’t see any desire to challenge Meg’s position,” she said. “We’re all desperate for a Labour government.

“In the General Election, there was a massive swing for Labour. It showed if you take hopeful policies to the electorate based on social justice, peace and human rights and democracy, people respond to it.

“There’s a huge energy in Labour right now.”

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