Two years after his dramatic suspension from the party ended, Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal is finally within reach of becoming an MP.

Last night, Ilford South Labour members selected him as their candidate in the next general election, representing an area that is a Labour stronghold, over current MP Sam Tarry.

Following the vote, held at Ilford’s Coliseum, Tarry said he was “utterly crestfallen” and repeated previous suggestions of voter fraud.

Redbridge Council leader Athwal won 499 votes and Tarry 361, votes which a Labour spokesperson argued are fully verified.

This morning, Jas Athwal told the Local Democracy Reporting Service Ilford is “the only place” he would want to represent.

He added: “The opportunity to be the Labour candidate at the next election and be part of Keir Starmer’s winning team is a real honour. 

“Today means Ilford can focus on the future and ensure that Westminster delivers for Ilford, that Ilford gets the investment it needs and deserves. 

“My family, my local party, has supported me through thick and thin in recent years. I could not be more grateful for their belief in me. 

“Our positive campaign is what I will be taking into the next election as Labour ends 13 years of Tory misrule.”

Sam Tarry meanwhile said he was “extremely concerned” about the integrity of Labour’s electronic voting system, which he said “does not reflect” the feeling of his campaigners.

He added: “I am taking some time to consider what’s next, but in order to be assured of the integrity of the result I am asking the party to share with me the full information of who cast electronic votes, by what method, and when they were cast, which I understand is available in the ‘anonyvoter’ system.

“In the meantime, I will continue to represent the people of Ilford South the way I have done for the past three years – with integrity, generosity and inclusivity.

“Thank you to my amazing team of volunteers on the ground who are the best of Ilford.”

A spokesperson for Labour declined to comment on Tarry’s suggestions of voter fraud.

Tarry claimed his campaign has been “clean and positive” and has firmly denied any involvement in allegations that led to Cllr Athwal’s temporary suspension from the Labour party between October 2019 and September 2020.

Ilford South’s ten Labour branches voted to “trigger” an open ballot this summer, meaning Tarry would not automatically be selected as a candidate in the next general election.

Following this, the branches unanimously voted for Jas Athwal to be one of four shortlisted candidates, who also included Redbridge councillor Niki Chahal and Slough’s deputy leader Pavitar Mann.

Before last night’s hustings, Cllr Chahal and Mann pulled out, with Chahal emailing local Labour members suggesting she experienced “intimidation”.