Rival would-be Labour candidates looking to stand for an Aberdeen council seat have been told they both have a shot at being elected – after outrage at the undoing of a political underdog story.
Party activists first reacted furiously last night as Deena Tissera was defeated by incumbent George Street and Harbour councillor Sandra Macdonald in a revote.
At the start of the month, the veteran Aberdeen Labour figure had lost her chance to stand for re-election after to Miss Tissera in dramatic circumstances.
Tied at nine votes apiece, the public health expert overcame the long-serving councillor on the pulling of virtual straws.
But in circumstances that led to accusations of meddling, the vote was declared void the following day.
Scottish Labour chiefs accused of George Street ‘stitch up’
Party members received an e-mail to say the process had been suspended pending an investigation, as it emerged one voter had not paid their subscription fees.
Last night there were claims of a “stitch up” from one faction within the local party.
It has been split in recent years over the readmittance of the so-called Aberdeen Nine into the Scottish Labour fold.
Mrs Macdonald, one of those expelled for going into coalition with the Conservatives at the Town House in 2017, was reselected for the George Street and Harbour ward last night.
An extra 10 members took part in this second George Street selection vote, which finished 16-12 in favour of the current administration’s housing and transport spokeswoman.
Sources were quick to allege foul play with such a drastic change in voter turnout, claiming party members had been wheeled in from different parts of the country to see Mrs Macdonald – wife of former north-east MSP and one-time Scottish Labour chief whip Lewis – over the line.
Mrs Macdonald told us: “I am delighted to have been selected as the Scottish Labour candidate for the George Street and Harbour ward.
“I look forward to continuing to stand up for the people of Aberdeen and delivering for the people in my ward and my city.”
George Street no more, but Tissera to stand for Aberdeen Labour after all
But there was soon some relief for Miss Tissera’s supporters when she was named as the candidate for Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill, where current councillor Lesley Dunbar is stepping down.
“It is also a winnable seat,” she told us.
“For me, both selections in George Street were done fairly. If we reran it again, the result would be different again.
“That’s just how selections work, depending on how many people attend.”
Miss Tissera had been braced to chase the Hilton candidacy at both selection meetings, given she was going up against such an established Aberdeen Labour name.
“I have campaigned there over the last eight elections and it is a prominent Labour seat.
“There is a lot of poverty and health inequality in the ward, so with my background in public health I am very excited to use my experience to help tackle those issues head-on.”
Attendance of top Labour brass does little to silence George Street critics
After the first selection vote ended in fiasco, Scottish Labour’s general secretary James Kelly is understood to have attended last night’s rerun, accompanied by another senior party organiser, Fay Graham.
And despite Miss Tissera’s selection for a second seat ahead of May’s local election, there were still those who criticised how the public health PhD student had been treated.
One member told The P&J: “This is a complete stitch-up from central office Labour.”
Another, who also spoke to this newspaper anonymously for fear of party disciplinary action, said: “It is utterly ridiculous that the party ordered a re-run and everyone knows that including the people who ordered it.”
Tissera: ‘Gatekeepers’ tried to talk Aberdeen Labour vice-chairwoman out of seeking party top role
Earlier this week, Miss Tissera – the Aberdeen Central constituency Labour party vice-chairwoman and former Miss Sri Lanka contestant – was told she had a seat at the top table of Scottish Labour.
The new northern Scotland rep on the party’s Scottish Executive Committee vowed to up representation of minority groups, accusing unnamed senior party figures of “internal gatekeeping”.
She claimed they tried to talk her into stepping back from the SEC election due to her race and because she was a young woman.
Numerous sources have told The Press And Journal that Miss Tissera faced stern criticism for speaking out about her experience at the selection meeting.
Afterwards, she said: “There were some people at last night’s meeting who no longer reside in Aberdeen but now I’ve been elected to the SEC I am looking to work to improve transparency at each level of the party: CLP meetings, selection meetings or even at the top.
“I won’t sit down and whine and complain, I want to get ahead and create the change that is necessary.
“Part of that is making that what happened to me is never allowed to happen again.”
Scottish Labour has previously told us that party HQ does not comment on selections.
Coming up tonight: The return of an Aberdeen Labour giant?
Last night’s result comes ahead of another high-profile candidacy selection in Torry and Ferryhill, which could end in the return of party big-hitter Willie Young.
The controversial ex-council finance convener is understood to be standing for candidacy in his home ward, going up against union organiser Simon Watson.
Voting on the candidacy in the southern Aberdeen ward was delayed soon after Mrs Macdonald’s initial defeat.