ACCUSATIONS of sexism and discrimination against men have been fired on a national level at the city’s Labour Party.
The claims of political incorrectness, which have been blasted by Councillor Rita Venn, erupted after the party revealed only female candidates could be shortlisted for the Milton Keynes North parliamentary seat.
As such two women, Leighton Buzzard train driver Rebekah Peterson and city resident Emily Darlington, are due to go head-to-head in a vote next week.
But already some members have refused to vote while others have complained nationally about the women only rule, which bans popular former MP and current deputy mayor Brian White from becoming a candidate.
Meanwhile, sitting MP Mark Lancaster has fuelled the political crossfire by issuing a statement saying: “I am surprised the Labour Party has decided there is not a single man in the city capable of representing Milton Keynes in Parliament.”
Labour party organiser Kevin Wilson insists there is nothing untoward or unfair about the male candidate ban.
“The decision was made by the national executive committee. They agreed many years ago that 50 per cent of all seats should have a women only shortlist,” he said. Other members disagree and claim the pressure came from a minority of local Labour executives – against the wishes of members.
One executive member is Carol Baume, who is also the mother-in-law of prospective candidate Emily Darlington.
The inter-party disagreement has already caused one Labour stalwart, Roger Bristow, to hold back his subscription and complain in writing to the party’s national deputy leader Harriet Harman.
Roger has been a member since 1964 and spent 30 years as a city councillor.
“I think the women only shortlist was an undemocratic decision and an example of introverted sexism,” he said.
Existing Labour councillor Margaret Burke agreed. “It’s downright sexism against men,” she said.
“If there was a men only rule for parliamentary candidates everybody would be shouting. But this is just as bad.”
Her council colleague Rita Venn said: “I am outraged. While I know women can do a job just as well as men, I would prefer it to be a mixed candidate lot.”
Spurned candidate Brian White was more reticent. “I am disappointed not to be given the chance to stand,” he said.