Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 17:26 UK

Labour selection contest resumes

John Austin
John Austin has held the sought-after seat since 1997

A Labour selection contest that was stopped after allegations of vote tampering has resumed.

Party members in Erith and Thamesmead will later vote for a candidate to fight for sitting MP John Austin's seat when he retires at the next election.

Complaints that non-local candidates are being favoured have caused ructions during the south-east London contest.

The London Labour party said after the seal on a ballot box was broken in April "all votes were reissued".

Ongoing investigation

A spokesman said: "They will select the candidate of their choice and if they do not like one candidate they will make their views known.

"There has been no evidence of wrongdoing until that ballot box was tampered with and there is an ongoing National Executive Committee (NEC) inquiry."

The eight candidates will be questioned by members before the vote.

Candidates for the seat include the daughter of Tony Blair's polling guru Lord Gould.

There have been claims Georgia Gould has being "parachuted in" by the Labour leadership at the expense of candidates with stronger local connections.

'Hijacked contest'

The current MP Mr Austin, who has a majority of more than 10,000, has been complaining the contest has been "hijacked" by the national party.

In April the Olympics minister Tessa Jowell had to apologise to Mr Austin for not saying she was visiting his seat to attend a meeting organised by Ms Gould.

The other people hoping to be Labour's candidate for Erith and Thamesmead at the next election include former minister Melanie Johnson, Greenwich councillor Angela Cornforth and Kensington and Chelsea councillor Marianne Alapini.

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