They used to call Bill Clinton “the Comeback Kid”. But Andrew Pelling could soon become known as Croydon’s Comeback Kid, following the former Tory MP and council’s Conservative leader’s selection last night as one of three candidates to stand for Labour at next May’s council elections.
Waddon is the first of the borough’s 24 wards to select its candidates for one of the major parties, and with the Town Hall controlled by the Conservatives by 37 seats to 33 since 2010, it is seen as a crucial battleground at the elections next May.
“Win Waddon,” one senior Labour source at the well-attended selection meeting said, “and you win Croydon.”
Pelling was selected alongside two local activists, Joy Prince and Robert Canning, who both live in Waddon.
That Waddon is considered as a “winnable” ward for Labour was demonstrated by having a high number of applicants for selection.
The selection of Pelling – who helped manage Labour’s energetic campaign for last year’s London Assembly elections, when they out-polled the Tories in the borough for the first time in history – shows Croydon’s opposition group bringing out a big gun to win control of the Town Hall.
Prince stood for Labour in the 2010 local elections when she was less than 400 votes from being elected as a councillor. A retired civil servant, she has lived in Waddon for 27 years and is well-known in the area as a community activist.
“Waddon residents tell us that they are very disappointed that the current Tory councillors all broke their promises to oppose building an incinerator in our community,” Prince said.
Robert Canning will be contesting his first local elections in 2014. A former Whitehall economist, he has lived in Waddon since 1994 and has been active in community action projects in the area.
“We have a strong team to put in front of local residents,” Canning said.
“The early selection shows our intent to win the confidence of Waddon voters for Labour. As it is, Andrew, Joy and I have been engaging with Waddon people on the doorstep for years already.”
Pelling, a regular contributor to Inside Croydon, was first elected to Croydon Council in 1982 for Broad Green ward when standing for the Conservatives. He was a Croydon councillor until 2006, and from 2002 was the leader of the Tory group at the Town Hall. As well as being Croydon and Sutton’s first London Assembly Member, in 2005 he won the Croydon Central seat for the Conservatives by 75 votes from the Labour’s Geraint Davies.
After having the Conservative party whip at Westminster withdrawn from him, Pelling stood at the 2010 General Election as an independent, when the seat was won by Gavin Barwell.
Waddon will be Pelling’s first candidacy for Labour since joining the party in 2011. “I will always value the kindness shown me by the Labour party since I joined,” he said.
Pelling is clear about the importance of the election in Waddon. “The Conservatives used to get elected in Waddon based on their value for money approach. But that reputation is now shot to pieces, with council services slashed for residents while a wasteful £140million HQ is built for councillors.
“The Conservatives have built up a £1 billion debt at the Town Hall, six times what they inherited from Labour, which is an irresponsible burden for Croydon’s Council Tax-payers.”
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