Barnet Borough Council's Labour leader Alison Moore says she is “deeply saddened” by a defecting councillor’s view that Labour is no longer the party of equality and justice.

Councillor Ansuya Sodha moved to the Conservative benches after Labour did not select her to stand in the May elections, according to Cllr Moore.

West Hendon representative Cllr Sodha, who joined the Labour Party more than 20 years ago, said in a statement she felt the party's selection process was flawed and it paid "lip service" to the idea of equal opportunity.

Cllr Moore told the Times Series: “She had a real struggle to get on the panel, not because she is Asian, but because she didn’t meet the standards we were looking for for our election candidates.

“It was a rigorous selection process and I make no apology for that. Our standards have risen. It has nothing to do with her ethnicity.

“We’ve got a range of people standing across the borough and we embrace all cultures.”

Cllr Sodha claimed its remaining members had been sidelined and treated with “scant” respect.

Cllr Moore added: “Her comments sadden me deeply. It’s just not the case. We are committed to being strong representatives for our party and communities.

“It’s a huge pity she’s taken the view about the equalities and the ethnic minority issue. There’s no foundation to the viewpoint that we’ve changed.”