Labour activists have expressed their anger after local councillors were prevented from running to be the party’s candidate in a key target seat for the next general election.

East Worthing and Shoreham, currently represented by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, is one of the constituencies Labour needs to win to secure a majority in parliament next year.

However, two councillors have said they have not been included on a longlist in the race to be Labour’s candidate for the seat.

Carl Walker, deputy leader of Worthing Borough Council, and Cat Arnold, councillor for St Mary’s ward on Adur District Council, both announced they had not been included on the list of contenders, which was completed by a panel led by the party’s national executive committee.

The Argus: Cllr Carl WalkerCllr Carl Walker (Image: Carl Walker)

Cllr Arnold, who is also the founder of a community cafe in Adur, expressed “deep sadness and disappointment” at the decision and said: “It is incredibly sad that no local representatives are now in the running for this seat.”

Cllr Walker, who had been endorsed by the Communication Workers Union, echoed her sentiment and said: “I am obviously disappointed in this decision. I think my local record in our community and in council warranted consideration.

“However, that is the decision that’s been made and I accept it.”

The Argus: Cllr Cat ArnoldCllr Cat Arnold (Image: Cat Arnold)

The move sparked uproar among some Labour activists, with Worthing councillor Emma Taylor-Beal said she was “fuming” that members had been denied the chance to vote for local candidates who had been “activists, campaigners and servers of the local community for years”.

“We the members made this a target seat and now they hand it to strangers,” she said.

Hilary Schan, Labour councillor for Tarring ward in Worthing, also expressed outrage at the “shameful” decision.

Chairman of Brighton and Hove Young Labour Tom Chatfield expressed his disappointment at Cllr Arnold’s exclusion from the race and said: “It is an utter disgrace that Labour Party members in East Worthing and Shoreham do not get the opportunity to pick a local candidate in their selection.

“Cat would have been an amazing MP and I am completely heartbroken for her.”

Aaron Bastani, co-founder of left-wing news organisation Novara Media, also weighed in on the debate and said: “Labour in Worthing won the council by building from the bottom up. Nobody who actually did that is allowed to stand as a parliamentary candidate though.”

One Labour supporter even took to social media to say they plan to quit the party over the saga after 45 years of membership.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said: “Labour will be selecting high calibre candidates across the country, including in East Worthing and Shoreham, and will be campaigning hard for every vote.

“As the recent Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth by-elections showed, this is a changed Labour Party, winning support across the country.”

Labour’s candidate for the constituency is expected to be chosen by the end of the year.

Although the party took control of the town’s council last year, Worthing has never elected a Labour MP.