Bell Ribeiro-Addy selected to stand in Streatham – we hear from her and Lib Dem candidate Helen Thompson
Diane Abbott’s chief of staff has be chosen to stand for Labour in Streatham to contest the seat held by Chuka Umunna until his defection this year.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy was chosen by Streatham Labour members on Saturday after a lengthy selection process and will run against former civil servant and Lib Dem candidate Helen Thompson who announced her candidacy in September.
She acknowledges the challenges women MPs face but views this as the right time for her to stand.
“I am enthused by the new policies that the Labour party has, I am enthused by the leadership,” she said.
“I think one of the reasons they are getting a lot of stick is because if this current leadership becomes the leadership of the country, we’re set to see a complete transformation of society.
“Having worked for Diane for a number of years, at first it was the last thing I wanted to do.
“I was always very interested in the issues and the work we were able to do in the community.
“But to actually be an MP, to be a black woman MP, to be a black woman socialist MP, and to know what that’s going to get you, might not be the attractive prospect.”
After her victory Ribeiro-Addy tweeted: “I am so humbled and proud to be chosen as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Streatham.
“Thank you to the people power campaign which made it possible – we will deliver a Corbyn Labour government to transform the lives of many.”
Helen Thompson, who has been in the party since 2017, said that Chuka Umunna’s decision to join has energised Streatham Lib Dems.
“We’ve won the European elections,” she said, “and then Chuka decides to join us and everyone in the constituency membership was really pleased to see that.
“Given that he’s been such a strong Remain campaigner, him wanting to ally with us and be part of the family too is a real endorsement of us being the strongest Remain party.”
Although Labour won with 38,000 votes in Streatham in the last election (with a majority of 26,000) while the Lib Dems came third with just 3,600, she believes she is on strong footing to win the seat in December.
“I think we are in the best position that we’ve ever been in,” she said.
“We are the only party that’s taken the seat seriously here, we’ve got a big campaign underway.
“The fact that the Conservative vote has collapsed certainly that helps us, because as ever in constituencies where parties have big majorities I think the main issue is demonstrating credibility that we could win.”
While Thompson kicked-off her campaign in the autumn, Streatham Labour has been unrepresented since June, and Labour members across the country have been frustrated by suggestions that candidates in empty seats would be imposed on them without a vote.
Maxine James, a community activist, supported a successful petition to allow Labour members to choose their own candidate in Streatham.
“If you’re a membership organisation and you have a candidate imposed from the centre, how do you have ownership of that process,” she said.
“The whole point of being a membership organisation is that you’re involved in the decision making of what goes on and the most critical decision is selecting a candidate that will represent members and voters in the constituency because you’ve got to go out and campaign for them.”
Both Ribeiro-Addy and Thompson highlight tackling youth violence as a priority in Streatham.
Ribeiro-Addy points to a joined-up public health approach between councils, schools and police as the best way to overcome the issue while Thompson hopes to work with businesses and community groups to provide activities for young people in the ‘dangerous’ after school hours of 4pm to 6pm when they tend to be out on the streets.
The Conservatives and the Green Party have not yet selected candidates for Streatham.