Labour has reopened its candidate selection process in the race for the mayor of Liverpool, less than two months before nomination papers have to be submitted.
Councillors Wendy Simon, Ann O’Byrne and Anna Rothery had been in the frame to stand for the party in the city’s mayoral election on 6 May.
It comes after Joe Anderson, who had been Liverpool’s elected mayor since the post was created in 2012, said he would not stand for re-election following his arrest as part of a fraud investigation by Merseyside Police.
In a statement at the time, Mr Anderson said: “I maintain that the police investigation will confirm I have done nothing wrong, and my name and reputation will be exonerated.”
“After careful consideration, Labour is reopening the selection for Liverpool mayor,” a party spokesperson said.
“We are committed to ensuring members are able to choose the right candidate to stand up against the Conservatives, lead Liverpool out of the coronavirus crisis and fight for the resources that the city desperately needs.”
It is understood the previous candidates will not be invited to apply.
Cllr Rothery said she was “shocked by the party’s chaotic handling” of the selection process, labelling it an “undemocratic failure of process”.
“If the decision stands, then I will be left with no choice but to challenge it legally,” she added in a statement posted on her Twitter account.
The deadline for new nominations is midday on Thursday and ballots will be distributed on 8 March.
They have to be returned by 29 March.
Completed nomination papers for the election have to be submitted to the council by 8 April.
Mr Anderson was arrested in December on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
The 63-year-old had already been picked as Labour’s candidate and was aiming for a third term as mayor.
But he was administratively suspended by the party pending the ongoing investigation.
Mr Anderson has promised to fight to demonstrate he is innocent of any wrongdoing and to safeguard his legacy as mayor.
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