Tories dump councillor No3 as Barwell strengthens his hand

Andy Stranack was duly selected on Saturday night as a Tory candidate for Heathfield ward in May’s local elections.

Forestdale resident Andy Stranack: the non-Tory Tory for Heathfield?

Forestdale resident Andy Stranack: the non-Tory Tory for Heathfield?

Stranack’s selection saw a third sitting Conservative councillor dumped in the selection process so far and provided the latest sign that there’s a power struggle continuing at the top of the political party that has held control of Croydon Town Hall for the last eight years.

“They’re like rats in a sack at the moment,” one senior Town Hall figure said yesterday evening. “They’re all trying to position themselves for any possible outcome in May. But pulling all the strings is Barwell. This is not about the 2014 elections as much as getting Gavin re-elected in 2015.”

Stranack was selected to stand in the ultra-safe Tory ward along with his fellow member of the evangelical Jubilee Church congregation, Jason Cummings, and current Tory cabinet member Margaret Mead.

It means that Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the Tory group on Croydon Council, will be among those in the borough forced to deal with the effects of “austerity”. His wife, Councillor Helen Pollard, was de-selected by local members, meaning that from May 22 their family household will have to do without her £21,510 annual “allowances” for her part-time role with the council.

Stranack was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the November 2012 Croydon North parliamentary by-election. By a twist of house prices, among the residents Stranack seems likely to represent on the council will be Steve Reed OBE, the Blairite Labour MP for Croydon North, who recently moved to Heathfield from Streatham (presumably there were no properties in Croydon North to his liking).

Inside Croydon had last week predicted the Stranack challenge in Heathfield, and how it was sure to cause discomfiture in the households of the Meads (Margaret is married to the local Tories’ other deputy leader, Dudley Mead) and the Pollards, who both seem to have hitherto regarded local politics as a form of family business, between them receiving nearly £160,000 a year in council allowances for their four part-time posts.

Soon-to-be-ex-councillor Helen Pollard: no way back on to the council on this map

Soon-to-be-ex-councillor Helen Pollard: no way back on to the council on this map

Tim Pollard has been duly re-selected for Sanderstead, alongside current Croydon Mayor Yvette Hopley and Lynne Hale. Meanwhile, in Selsdon and Ballards, another safe ward, three Tory front-benchers, Dudley Mead, Sara Bashford and Phil Thomas, were all re-selected.

Thomas’s selection refutes the rumours that had been circulating Katharine Street for almost a year that the former school teacher and key Tory campaign manager was considering emigrating to the United States.

With Thomas still on the scene, the possibility of a leadership challenge to florid-faced Mike Fisher, whether or not the Conservatives win the election on May 22, becomes even greater. Thomas was one of the councillors on the selection panel when the Tories short-listed candidates for the Croydon South parliamentary seat last autumn, and delivered a stunning snub to Fisher. Town Hall observers suggest that Fisher has never recovered from that shock rejection.

And Thomas’s position in the hierarchy of Croydon Conservatives seems to have grown stronger, if only by a process of elimination. Dudley Mead, the ageing former leader, has already signalled his intention to step down from senior responsibilities by accepting nomination to be Croydon’s Mayor in 2014-2015 should the Tories retain power. Tim Pollard’s position looks to have been weakened by his wife’s de-selection at the expense of a key supporter of Gavin Barwell, the Croydon Central MP.

Helen Pollard joins Justin Cromie and Eddy Arram as councillors who their local Tory membership deemed to be not good enough to stand again, in addition to several retirements from the current Conservative crop.

Barwell’s influence over selections has been crucial. It has not always been entirely welcomed, either, with at least one hard-working activist quitting a senior role in one ward in Croydon Central, and other members murmuring about the lack of a single African-Caribbean Tory candidate for Croydon Council among those selected so far.

Barwell is likely to adopt his usual “am I bovvered?” position, with the prospect of his having three of his parliamentary staff – Bashford, Sue Bennett and Mario Creatura – sitting on the council from May 23, while Ian Parker has sacrificed his status as a councillor in order to concentrate full-time on his work as election agent for Barwell’s 2015 General Election campaign.

In contrast, Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway has but a single Croydon councillor on his staff (Hale), while Reed has none (although a trusted aide from Lambeth Council was among his first appointments).

How Bashford, Bennett and Creatura will manage to find time for their responsibilities as local councillors while also collecting state-funded salaries for working on Croydon Central constituents’ interests, and still have “spare time” for their own personal political canvassing and social media will remain one of life’s unsolved mysteries.


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2012 by-election, 2014 council elections, 2015 General Election, Croydon Central, Dudley Mead, Eddy Arram, Gavin Barwell MP, Heathfield, Helen Pollard, Ian Parker, Jason Cummings, Justin Cromie, Lynne Hale, Margaret Mead, Phil Thomas, Sanderstead, Sara Bashford, Selsdon & Ballards, Steve Reed MP, Tim Pollard, Yvette Hopley and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tories dump councillor No3 as Barwell strengthens his hand

  1. Andrew Leng says:

    On a slightly separate issue but connected to the local elections

    Gavin Barwell and his merry band of helpers were out canvassing in my street yesterday morning. No doubt they were drumming up support for the local elections and possibly wary/worried that UKIP had recently been dropping leaflets in the area.

    One of his canvassers knocked on my next door neighbour’s door – he wasn’t in. Mr Barwell and his associates then stood directly outside our house. They looked towards our door and then my wife overheard one of them say “this one’s wavering Labour” (when in fact neither I nor my wife are Labour voters). So they proceeded to ignore our house before knocking on my other next door neighbour’s door.

    Therefore, we were deliberately denied a rare opportunity to speak to our MP to tell him what our concerns were.

    This is at odds with what he has previously said about meeting constituents, in a blog from May 2010: “First, a big thank you to the thousands of people of all political persuasions I have met during this campaign, who – almost without exception – have been grateful that a candidate has bothered to knock on their door, introduce themselves and ask what their concerns are. It has been a privilege to hear what you want from the next government and you’re next MP. I hope that if I am given the honour of serving you, I will live up to your expectations.”

    It seems that as far as Mr Barwell is concerned, it is no longer such a “privilege” to hear what his constituents “of all political persuasions” want any more. Unless they vote Tory, or are likely to do so, or share his views.

    It’s a bit arrogant isn’t it? There’s me thinking that MPs were elected to serve all their constituents, regardless of political persuasion and to be approachable and, more importantly, accountable to the electorate.

    And they wonder why politicians are held in such contempt.

    • “this one’s wavering Labour” . When canvassing the Tories would never say Labour, Conservative or Libdums. In your case they would have said “W” “S” or Socialist and NOT wavering Labour.

      Those who are canvassing would try and convince the “W”s and not ignore them . I am really surprised.

  2. I was part of the team out with Gavin yesterday, saw this and thought I should reply correcting a few of your incorrect assumptions.

    We’ve been out at least twice (sometimes four times) every week for many months in Addiscombe. Indeed, last week we managed to deliver the candidates’s seven point plan to all 6,000 families in less than three hours. When we canvass we knock on doors to meet residents and to find out if we can help them at all.

    There are lots of houses, and lots of people to talk to, so it’s quite laborious. Quite often you canvass a street and you might not get many people in. They’re often out living their lives! So when we go back to that street a few weeks later, we don’t knock on every door. We only knock on people who we’ve not spoken to relatively recently. One of the team must have spoken to someone in your household within the last few months.

    Gavin is an incredibly hardworking and diligent MP, but when we’re out campaigning we have to make as best use of our time as possible. With around 15,000 Addiscombe residents to talk to we have to be selective. If our records show that we spoke to your household recently then we don’t want to re-knock and annoy you, so we skip some houses regardless of your political inclination.

    • We’re publishing the above comment, even though it breaks the site rules against anonymous commenters. The posting address appears to be a redundant or trolling Twitter account, or perhaps an “alternative” identity established by certain interest groups. Letters published by local newspapers who do not bother checking the veracity of the material have come from a series of individuals who simple routine checks show do not actually exist.

      And so it appears that someone purporting to support Gavin Barfwell is now trying a similar technique here (unless someone called Tony Richards can fulfil our posting requirements, and provide a working, contact email and daytime phone number), in an effort to pass off a series of lies.

      He writes that he “thought I should reply correcting a few of your incorrect assumptions”.

      What Andrew Leng posted (and we’ve checked) is neither incorrect nor an assumption. “Mr Richards” appears to believe he can smear a Croydon resident, and his wife, to protect the reputation of a local MP.

      Andrew Leng and his wife both witnessed the conduct of the Tory canvassers. They heard what they heard: Conservative canvassers giving a wide berth to a household which they have (mistakenly) assumed to be Labour-supporting. So much for Barfwell representing all Croydon Central.

      The Lengs confirm that no one from the MP’s office nor from the local Conservative Party (and the two bodies are virtually inter-changeable, we know) has been near or by their front door at any time in recent months.

      “Mr Richards’s” veracity is questionable in other ways, too. 6,000 families leafleted in three hours? What did you do: carpet bomb Addiscombe with your pieces of paper?

    • mraemiller says:

      “Quite often you canvass a street and you might not get many people in”

      Such innocence – it’s almost touching.

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