Paul Smith, the Labour councillor for West Thornton and member of the shadow cabinet, has not been selected to stand at next May’s Town Hall elections. He is the fourth serving Labour councillor in Croydon to miss out on selection for the 2014 elections.
As first reported by Inside Croydon last week, Smith failed to be included on a short-list of candidates, but he challenged that decision because there had not been enough local party members attending the meeting.
At a ward selection meeting this week, this time with a quorate attendance, Smith’s objection was accepted. A new short-list was needed in any case because two of the five previously short-listed had both withdrawn, and the membership needed to be presented with more than three short-listed candidates. Gerry Ryan, already a serving councillor, was earlier in the week re-selected by members in his own Selhurst ward, while another short-listee, Jamie Audsley, had been selected in Bensham Manor.
Yet even on this second short-listing, Smith was not chosen. The Labour party members in West Thornton will now have to re-convene for a third time, when they will be presented with a short-list of Bernadette Khan, the veteran councillor for the ward, Stuart King, a former parliamentary candidate in Putney, and Tony Benn’s grand daughter, Emily Benn (all three had been selected in the first meeting), this time plus James Gill.
Smith, who was a councillor in Waddon between 2002 and 2006 before being elected in West Thornton three years ago, may not now seek selection elsewhere in the borough.
“Obviously I am very disappointed with the decision,” Smith told Inside Croydon. “I have no regrets with my time as a councillor in West Thornton and have worked hard for the residents of the ward as I shall continue to do whilst I am in office.
“That a small group of people have decided that they wanted to unseat me is really sad but that is a matter for conscience. Perhaps I wish a few had put as much effort into challenging the Tories then it would be better.
“I continue to have a job of work to do as a councillor and shadow cabinet member. The Labour party has a very strong group of councillors and candidates and my focus will continue to be ensuring that they become part of the majority group in Croydon after 2014 and remove this discredited and increasingly desperate Tory Council; that includes ensuring that West Thornton return three Labour councillors.”
While Croydon is no Falkirk, the local Labour party’s borough-wide selection process for the 2014 council elections continues to throw up some intriguing machinations.
Councillor Smith follows Karen Jewitt in Woodside in not being selected to contest their ward, while Bensham Manor councillor Raj Rajendran did not even pass muster on Labour’s approval panel.
Indeed, of Labour’s three serving councillors in Bensham Manor, Alison Butler, the Croydon Labour group deputy leader, will be the only one defending the ward next May, since Councillor Donna Gray also failed to win selection.
Gray had been considered a rising star of the local Labour party. At the 2010 council elections, she won more votes in Bensham Manor than any other candidate, so her non-selection for 2014 was another surprise. In her place, alongside Councillor Humayun Kabir – who opted to stand in Bensham Manor, rather than the West Thornton ward he presently represents – and Butler, will be Audsley, a young teacher who has worked in schools in New Addington, but has previously been more active as a Labour organiser in Lambeth.
Following the election of former Lambeth council leader Steve Reed OBE as MP for Croydon North, Audsley is the latest sign of a growing influence from the neighbouring “co-operative” borough. Some in the local Labour group have already begun to refer to their political constituency as “Lambeth South”.
Audsley lives in Thornton Heath, where he is said to have been “quite active” in the last “six to 12 months”. So clearly very well established in Croydon, then…
Labour has a policy of having at least one woman candidate on its slate in every ward, although the number of women who have come forward to seek selection for 2014 is understood to offer little choice across all of Croydon’s 24 wards (while competition for places in the more winnable wards in the north of the borough is obviously greater). It may be, therefore, that Gray will find another ward in which to seek selection; certainly, Jewitt has put herself forward for Thornton Heath.
And while the re-selections of the serving Labour councillors in both Selhurst and South Norwood wards have gone through relatively smoothly this week, some long-established Labour councillors are expressing concern over their place in the 2014 election battle.
Questions are being asked over matters of procedure in both Broad Green and New Addington, the latter ward including one Tory-held council seat which Labour must win back if they are to take control of the Town Hall next year.
In Broad Green, the Croydon ward probably worst affected by the 2011 riots, a number of new members, mostly of Tamil heritage, have raised objections over their exclusion from being candidates or selecting candidates. Most of the new members joined in October 2012, but would have needed to have been members in September 2012 to play an active part in this round of selections.
- Ex-MP Pelling selected to run for Labour in Waddon
- Woodside Labour councillor Jewitt fails to win selection
- New Addington councillor Ayres announces retirement plan
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source that is actually based in the heart of the borough – averaging 44,000 page views per month, Jan-Jun 2013
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