Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of Croydon Council‘s ruling Conservatives, has used public money from a government grant to place ads alongside classifieds for the borough’s brothels.
“Cuddly”, who cuts a somewhat Captain Mainwaring figure at the Town Hall, was caught off-guard by a supplementary question at last week’s council meeting.
Without a week’s notice in writing to come up with some sort of dismissive and patronising response, after revealing that recent “Love Croydon” display ads in the Croydon Sadvertiser are being paid for out of a £150,000 Government grant following the August riots, Mead was stumped when his questioner, none other than Inside Croydon correspondent Andrew Pelling, then put him on the spot.
Mead was asked: “Why does he think it is appropriate for the council to advertise with a paper which, unlike the Croydon Guardian which has shown great leadership removing sex adverts linked to human trafficking, continues to run such advertising?
“Does the cabinet member think it appropriate that the council advertises with such a paper?”
Had Captain Mainwaring’s Dad’s Army sidekick, Corporal Jones, been in the council chamber that night, he might have started to cry out: “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!”
Once he’d gathered his composure, Mainwaring/Mead replied, “I did not expect that question at all, so it’s unfair… ” poor dear.
“But I see no reason why the council should not place adverts with the Croydon Advertiser, a local paper that has served the community for 125 years and should be supported.
“If, on the other hand, there is a lobby group on this issue, this is something that should be brought before the newspaper, not the council.”
This laissez faire attitude to human trafficking in their borough by Croydon’s Conservatives is in contrast to Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton Council, which recently banned all advertising with newspapers that carry ads for the sex trade.
The financial implications of this decision alone – with local authorities being among the biggest regular advertisers with local papers – may have been key in prompting the Sadvertiser group to consider ending its weekly Sutton edition.
Specifically, Sutton Council resolved “to support the work of anti-slavery charities and agreed a statement of principle against the use of newspapers carrying adverts for massage parlours when placing statutory notices”.
This more enlightened response followed a briefing from CCAT, Croydon Community Against Trafficking.
CCAT has been campaigning on the issue of human trafficking and the sex trade since 2005, with the police taking only a modest amount of action because of their concerns about just displacing brothels, and a deeply ingrained scepticism of the existence of the trade in Croydon. Click here for links to a recent Observer article that draws connections betwee homeless children in Croydon and the sex trade.
Home Office monies nationally did seem to make a great impact on the problem but were subsequently dropped by the Labour government, as sex-trade human trafficking initiatives were merged with other responsibilities in the Met.
CCAT was successful in persuading the Croydon Guardian to drop the sex-industry adverts. Indeed the whole Gannett organisation dropped such ads. Loot will also start following the advert ban in future.
The Sadvertiser, though, has continued the defend the indefensible, as it greedily opts to make money out of human misery. They seriously try to claim that the advertisements in their classified pages really are for “massage parlours”, “saunas”, chatlines and “escorts”, rather than what they really are, which is exploitative and illegal brothels.
The Sadvertiser‘s faux innocence in this respect was thoroughly undermined last year when in a bold front-page “exclusive” “bravely” “exposed” the illegal activities of a brothel in West Croydon. Unfortunately for the intrepid reporting team, the very same “house of ill-repute” was advertising its “services” in the classified section of the very same edition of the newspaper, and continued to do so for weeks after.
Entirely coincidentally, after Inside Croydon revealed this enormous gaffe, the then editor of the Croydon Sadvertiser was replaced soon after.
Neither that editor, nor his replacement, Glenn Ebrey, ever got round to publishing letters from CCAT critical of their newspaper’s hypocritical editorial policy of sensationalising news coverage of local brothels while profiting from them at the same time.
CCAT “believe that allowing adverts for sexual services to be printed in local newspapers promotes and encourages the enslavement of women and children and fuels business and profits for traffickers and pimps.
“Now common front-page headlines about sexual attack and assaults on women, printed weekly in our local papers, cannot be disassociated from the advertisements for all kinds of sexual services printed in the back of the newspapers.”
CCAT believes “that the very base concept of ‘supply and demand’ for enslaved women and children is being perpetuated by this advertising”.
Following last week’s council meeting Mainwaring/Mead was quick to attend the Mayor’s Christmas reception, lured by its mulled wine and mince pies. While there, he was told by a senior Sadvertiser correspondent that the newspaper’s classified advertisements indeed include sex industry ads for “massage parlours” and “personal services”.
Now up to speed with his brief, Mead was quick to back-track, to claim that his answer in the chamber would have been entirely different if he had actually known what he was talking about. He said that he takes the view that such advertising was not appropriate in a newspaper that the council advertises in.
It will be interesting to see whether this influences Mead to actually take any action in this respect, since he is rather more sympathetic to the cause than other Conservatives.
Brian Cooke, the chairman of Orpington Conservatives, takes a free market view, believing that banning the sex ads in the Sadvertiser would be bad for the paper’s commercial interests.
Asked when he thought the Croydon Sadvertiser might stop its sex trade adverts, Cooke said, “Probably never. They are a commercial organisation and they are there to make money, so why not?
“You will never stop the sex trade. Being open and clear with girls in flats advertising legally is far better than being on street corners or driving them underground.”
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough – free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Croydon, 21st century slavery and the sex trade (insidecroydon.com)
- Sadvertiser flees from Croydon in latest round of cut-backs (insidecroydon.com)
- Sadvertiser’s cheap photostunt amid other people’s misery (insidecroydon.com)