A barrister who has advised anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein over his suspension from Labour over alleged antisemitism has been chosen as the party’s next parliamentary candidate in Stoke-on-Trent South.
Mark McDonald - one of the founders of the Labour Friends of Palestine - was selected ahead of five other short-listed applicants, who included city councillor Ruth Rosenau and Newcastle borough councillor Amelia Rout.
Mr McDonald, who grew up in a Birmingham tower block, is a criminal defence and international human rights barrister based in London, but his selection has angered some in the local party who believe a local candidate should have been favoured.
Mr McDonald said he was consulted by Mr Greenstein ahead of the suspended activist's successful claim in the High Court that his party disciplinary hearing should be delayed due to ill health.
Mr McDonald had previously worked out of the Mansfield Chambers, headed by Michael Mansfield, the lawyer who defended Ken Livingstone over claims of antisemitism over suggesting Hitler “supported Zionism”.
In the past Mr McDonald has written for the Labour supporting Tribune Magazine –with one article attempting to play down Labour’s antisemitism problem.
He has tried repeatedly to gain selection as Labour candidate over the past few years standing at 20 different local parties, most recently losing out in Thurrock, Essex.
But he was finally successful on Sunday night in the Stoke-on-Trent South seat won by Conservative candidate Jack Brereton at the last election - ending Labour’s 67-year hold on the seat.
Mr McDonald is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter – as are Ms Rosenau and Ms Rout – and he received the endorsement of Momentum, the left-wing group that evolved out of Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign.
Stoke-on-Trent South CLP chairman Chris Robinson, who is also a city councillor, said he was disappointed with the outcome of the selection process.
He told the Stoke Sentinel newspaper: “In previous elections we have criticised the Conservatives for choosing a non-local candidate, so we can’t really avoid that now. I’m not a Momentum member myself, but there were some who were saying they would be leaving the group now because it hadn’t supported the local candidate.
“But we have to all rally around now. The next election will be a close contest – Jack Brereton only won by 650 votes. I think the fact that Mark is an experienced barrister will be beneficial, and hopefully he will be able to bring some high-profile figures up here.”
Mr McDonald told the Sentinel: “I have fought for social justice and human rights for the last 30 years and have the skills and the determination to bring Labour back to the people of Stoke-on-Trent South and importantly to ensure that no child is left behind and every school leaver has an equal opportunity to achieve something in life.
“The stakes could not be higher and the hard work starts right now. I will be visiting every street, delivering Labour’s message of change to every home in the constituency.
Mr McDonald told the JC he was working with Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, to train activists in avoiding the use of antisemitic language.
The article has been amended to reflect Mr McDonald's exact role in advising Mr Greenstein