Grassroots Croydon Conservatives are asking whether Councillor Helen Pollard was given preferential treatment by the local party’s leadership after she was nominated earlier this week to stand in Fairfield ward at the local elections in May.
Helen Pollard is married to the deputy leader of the Tories on Croydon Council, Tim Pollard.
Between the two of them, the Pollards received £67,354 for their part-time roles as Croydon councillors in the past year. But that all came under threat on Saturday when Helen Pollard failed to secure re-selection in the ultra-safe Heathfield ward, where she was first elected in 2006.
Yet just two days later, the wife of the Tories’ deputy leader was standing for selection again, successfully this time, in another relatively safe ward, Fairfield.
“How can she do that?” Inside Croydon’s loyal reader asked.
“Weren’t sitting councillors forbidden from applying for other wards by the leader, Mike Fisher, to avoid the unseemly game of musical chairs, with councillors scrabbling for nominations, which Labour went through last summer?
“That was certainly the rule that was applied firmly in 2010,” our mole outside the local Tories’ head office in Purley told us. But that was then, this is now.
At least one current councillor, Waddon’s Clare Hilley, the former rising star of the national Tory youth wing, is thought to have opted not to stand at the Town Hall elections on May 22 because she was forbidden from trying to use what is known as the “chicken run”, of seeking selection in another ward or seat with more secure election prospects.
Other Conservative councillors, including at least one cabinet member, are also understood to have been re-buffed in their enquiries about seeking selection elsewhere in the borough. But not Helen Pollard, who Katharine Street sources describe as an “unexceptional” councillor who “has risen without trace”.
“The thing is, however Helen Pollard ended up on the short-list in Fairfield,” our disillusioned source suggests, “some rules must have been broken. They’ve done her a massive favour. But why?”
Another local Tory has also raised similar questions over Helen Pollard’s Fairfield candidacy, pointing out that if she was disallowed from applying to other wards as a sitting councillor in Heathfield, then her application and short-listing in Fairfield must have all happened within less than 48 hours – thought to be impossible under the usually strictly observed Conservative Party procedures. It certainly did not give the Pollards much time to lobby the local members in Fairfield for their support.
There have been signs of simmering discontent among Croydon Conservative members. This is not only over the vast amounts which their councillors have awarded themselves in council “allowances” – backbencher Helen Pollard alone receives more than £21,000 without being a member of any significant council committees, nor with the sort of ward casework load which many councillors representing less privileged areas of the borough have to deal with – but also at the way the local leadership has handled the selection process.
No selections were made until after leader Mike Fisher got the council budget through. So far, three sitting councillors have been de-selected from the present Town Hall Tory “team”, plus the departures of Hilley, Ian Parker, the local party agent, and a handful of retirements, their places often being taken by the over-ambitious aides and dutiful placemen of Croydon Central MP Gavin Barfwell.
One ward secretary of the local Conservatives resigned from his position at the end of February over the selections. Last week, it was suggested that the party’s leadership has such little faith in the abilities (or lack of them) of its candidates in one key ward, New Addington, that they preferred to put up a more articulate and less unreliable cabinet member as a guest for a discussion of the area, even on the unchallenging medium of Croydon Radio.
And regular activists among the dwindling Conservative membership are reportedly so disillusioned with their councillors and candidates that they have been reluctant to get fully involved with campaigning. Reports suggest that selection meetings are poorly attended, while barely 100 Conservative members paid their tenners earlier this week for a rally by the super nova of the Tories, Boris Johnson. Mind you, even Boris seemed barely bothered, turning up for the event more than an hour late.
- Seven Tory MPs deliver leaflet critical of Conservative council
- Cromie pays the price of conscience as Parker focuses on 2015
- Fisher holds fire on Tory selections to force his budget through
- Selection rows see King abdicate from Addiscombe Tories
Coming to Croydon
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- March of the Mods at Oval Tavern for Teenage Cancer Trust, Mar 16
- St Patrick’s Night celebration, Ruskin House, Mar 17
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood Cemetery, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- David Lean Cinema: Basically Johnny Moped, Mar 27-28
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- David Lean Cinema: 12 Years a Slave, Apr 3
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- Norwood Society Talk: Crystal Palace, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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