The decision on who is to be the next MP for Croydon North will be taken on November 3. That’s when Croydon North Labour members meet to choose their party’s candidate for the parliamentary seat when a by-election is held for the constituency that Malcolm Wicks turned into a Labour electoral fortress.
Following a shortened by-election selection process led by Labour’s National Executive Committee, a shortlist of five was announced this afternoon.Here we profile each of them:
Simon Burgess: Perhaps the Labour NEC is unaware of the animosity of Croydon North’s Crystal Palace football fans to a certain seaside team. But though “Croydon-born”, Burgess is based in Brighton, where he works at a deaf school.
In 2010, he managed to lose Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven, previously a Labour-held seat to the Conservatives on a 5 per cent swing at the last General Election.
For a year, Burgess led Brighton and Hove City Council. His Labour colleagues subsequently managed to lose control of the council to the Greens. In the Labour leadership contest, Burgess ran Ed Balls’ campaign office, so he hardly comes to Croydon North with a winning record. If Croydon’s Labour councillors aren’t perceived by their NEC bosses to be good enough to match this record, there must be something wrong with them.
Burgess has been a trade union official in the public sector, worked for the previous Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven MP in parliament and he has campaigned on maintaining a good supply of social housing in Brighton and on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues.
A DJ in his youth, Burgess likes cycling and going in his camper van with his family to use his folding dinghy – clearly not in the same sailing class as Croydon South’s Tory MP Lord Bletchingley and his Cowes Week forays.
You can follow Burgess on Twitter at: @burgesssimon
Farzana Hakim: Tony Blair’s race adviser Hakim is no stranger to the rough and tumble of national politics, having had to live through the internecine wars that cursed the Commission for Racial Equality. Hakim was said to have been an inappropriate appointment to the CRE by its then chairman, Trevor Phillips, in a letter written by Professor Kay Hampton to a parliamentary committee.
Having previously worked at No 10 Downing Street, Hakim was a useful appointment as director of corporate and government relations at the CRE for Phillips, the former Labour politician and television presenter.
Hakim has spoken out strongly against old-fashioned approaches by Labour in cultivating black and minority ethnic electors relying on so-called “community leaders” to deliver the vote.
Steve Reed: Leader of Lambeth Council, Reed is definitely not a “Red Ted”-type like one of his notorious predecessors at Brixton Town Hall. Lambeth is different these days. Reed’s position on the political spectrum is possibly closer to another one-time Lambeth councillor: John Major.
Under his leadership, Reed has worked to hand over council services to community co-operatives, all in the name of achieving the cuts in spending imposed by the government, but something that the even Conservatives have not been able to achieve for Croydon’s public libraries. Not yet, anyway.
The highest placed elected Labour politician of influence on the 2010 Pink List, Reed has made great strides in improving Lambeth Council. Tories would love him to be the candidate, as this would allow them to suggest that local Labour people were not up to the job.
Valerie Shawcross: An experienced south London politician and Ken Livingstone’s deputy mayoral candidate in May’s London elections, Shawcross lives in the constituency and was leader of Croydon Council from 1997 to 2000, when representing New Addington ward.
Shawcross departed in 2000 when she won the London Assembly seat of Lambeth and Southwark at the newly created GLA, and before the then Labour-run Croydon Council fell into financial crisis. She later beat off stiff election challenges from inner London LibDems to retain her position at City Hall.
Shawcross was appointed a CBE for good work in improving the London Fire Service, overcoming union resistance when she chaired the fire authority.
Louisa Woodley: Labour’s candidate in Croydon and Sutton in the London Assembly elections in May, she reduced Steve O’Connell’s majority from 42,655 to 9,418, and polled most votes of all candidates in Croydon, although swings to Labour secured in other GLA seats were much bigger.
Her local ties are strong – she taught at Sylvan High School in and also lives in the constituency. Woodley is a councillor in Thornton Heath and teaches in Lambeth. She is a strong linguist.
Previously active in the NUT, she was elected first to Woodside ward but had to run for the seat again straight away after being found to have been ineligible to run for office as an employee of the council. She is originally from the small island of St Kitts.
Woodley does not appear to be on Twitter. Yet.
Labour will now spend the next 10 days fighting each other for the nomination while the other parties concentrate on talking to the residents in Croydon North.
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