A power-grab by a group of right-wing Tories in favour of Brexit and austerity lies behind the recent de-selections of three councillors, Labour has claimed.

The de-selections of councillors Maureen Braun, Sury Khatri and Joan Scannell last weekend – followed by the resignation of Cllr Khatri yesterday – has led to claims from Labour that allies of deputy leader Daniel Thomas are plotting a coup.

But Cllr Thomas has dismissed the allegations and said Labour were trying to divert attention away from their own internal problems.

Labour leader Barry Rawlings said moderate, pragmatic Conservatives were being dropped and replaced with more hard-line figures.

He said: "There is a group preparing to take over the leadership and they are getting their allies in place. They are a bit of a pro-Brexit group – radical Tories seeking to take over in Barnet."

Mr Rawlings described the deselected councillors as "old-fashioned, One Nation Conservatives working with different groups and taking each issue on its merits".

In contrast, the alleged plotters are an "austerity-driven" group more in favour of privatising public services, he added.

His concerns were echoed by Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, who said: "I believe this is a coup by the Conservative far-right Brexiteers to further the ambitions of Daniel Thomas, currently deputy leader of the council, who wants to lead the Conservative Group after the election.

"They have taken out three moderate councillors because they are more independent-minded and open to debate."

Mr Dismore said Barnet Conservatives want "yes men who will comply with orders and won’t question them", adding that Cllr Khatri was "the only Tory member to challenge the Capita privatisation".

Like most other London boroughs, Barnet voted to remain in the EU, with a substantial majority of more than 20,000 votes cast in favour of staying in the union.

Responding to the accusations, Cllr Thomas said Labour were trying to divert attention away from their problems with antisemitism and the hard-left Momentum group.

He said: "I think Dismore and Rawlings have been watching too much House of Cards. A local council is obviously not the arena in which to play games about Brexit.

"The party’s decision not to re-select a small number of councillors is nothing to do with policy, an imagined ‘coup’ or a non-existent faction trying to take control. The selection process is such that no single person can control it and our new candidates are yet to be chosen."