Enfield’s council leader has hit out at a ‘racist smear campaign’ that she claims lies behind recent media coverage of Labour’s candidate selections for the local election.

Cllr Nesil Caliskan emailed members of the local Labour Party on Monday to defend the way the selection process was handled following the publication of an article in The Sunday Times containing allegations that the council had been “taken over” by a “clan”.

She said the process took place in line with Labour Party rules and candidates were interviewed by completely independent panels comprised of three Labour members from outside Enfield.

Cllr Caliskan – who was secretary of Labour’s local campaign forum, which oversaw the interview process – added that the choice of candidates for each ward was made by party members in that ward via the one-member-one-vote principle.

In the email, the council leader states: “The claims being made amount to a series of smears with racist overtones. A number of complaints have been made to the Labour Party about discriminatory language and attacks towards the Turkish-speaking community.”

It has also emerged that a group of councillors from the Turkish, Kurdish, Alevi and Turkish Cypriot community contacted Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to complain about alleged racism following media coverage of the dispute within the party over candidate selections.

Their email states: “These accusations have no ground and we do not want any further defamation of this specific community or our party. For that reason, we are calling on you to urgently investigate the selection process to bring out the truth in whatever has happened and to end the negative campaign against our party.

“We see this as the only way to protect our values of anti-racism, democracy and transparency that we hold dear to ourselves.”

It is signed by councillors Elif Erbil, Sabri Ozaydin, Tolga Aramaz, Sinan Boztas, Susan Erbil, Ergin Erbil, Guney Dogan, Guner Aydin, Ergun Eren, Saray Karakus and Huseyin Isik Akpinar.

The Sunday Times article, published on July 15, reported allegations that the council had been “taken over” by a religious minority group and the extended family of a convicted criminal.

It said several new councillors had family connections, and that at least six current councillors were related to former councillor Nesimi Erbil, who was forced to stand down after being given suspended prison sentences for fraud in 2014 and a public order offence in 2016.

Following the local elections on May 3, half of the current cabinet, including the deputy leader, wrote to the NEC to demand an investigation over allegations of irregularities in the candidate selection process.

The letter was signed by councillors and senior local Labour Party members from a range of ethnic backgrounds, including Turkish, Greek, Cypriot, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Irish, Black, Bengali, Somali, and Sri Lankan.

Both of the borough’s Constituency Labour Parties, Enfield Southgate and Enfield North, also passed motions calling on the NEC to investigate.

Jennie Formby, general secretary of the Labour Party, has emailed members stating: “It has been agreed to look into all of the complaints we have received with an objective of providing support to restore positive working relationships.”