Tory councillors under pressure for re-selection in Heathfield

Margaret Mead: one half of Croydon Council's First Couple. Is her place as a Heathfield candidate under threat?

Margaret Mead: part of Croydon Council’s Terry and June act. Is her place as a candidate under threat?

The nominations to be Conservative candidates in the ultra-safe council ward of Heathfield look like being strongly contested tomorrow.

According to a very well-placed Tory source at the Town Hall, the current Heathfield councillors, Jason Cummings, Helen Pollard and a key member of florid-faced Mike Fisher’s front bench “team”, Margaret Mead, could face stiff challenges from at least one new candidate.

“I’m never going to go through all this again,” one angry senior councillor with many years’ devoted service to the Tory party has been heard to say in the chilly corridors of Katharine Street.

Heathfield ward, which is in the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency of Gavin Barwell, covers west Shirley, the exclusive Shirley Hills area including Bishop’s Walk with its millionaires’ mansions, Addington Palace, Addington Village, Forestdale and Monks Hill. It is the very desirable part of the borough where the MP for Croydon North, Steve Reed OBE, has recently chosen to move home.

At the last local elections in 2010, the three Conservative councillors secured more than twice the number of votes of their nearest challengers, with the smallest majority for any of them being an overwhelming 2,090.

Two of the current Heathfield councillors come from Croydon Council’s versions of Terry and June, and are spouses of the Tories’ deputy leaders: Helen Pollard, who is married to Sanderstead councillor Tim, who between them took home £67,354 in council allowances in the last year; Margaret Mead and husband Dudley, a councillor for Selsdon and Ballards, received £89,824 from Croydon Council towards their pension pot.

There is growing resentment among ordinary members of the local Conservative party over the amount of allowances that these households receive for their part-time roles on the council, while the dwindling band of dedicated party activists who work hard to keep them in power on the council do all their work for the love of the party – and for free.

The candidate selections in 2010 saw a very strong support from grassroots party members for Cummings, who garnered much backing from fellow Jubilee Church-goers.

The Jubilee Church recently took on a long lease from the council at a decidedly favourable rate for the under-used Selsdon Halls, where they intend to increase community use as well as to use the facility for church activities. Boris Johnson will be having his £10-a-head Conservative political event there next Tuesday.

Andy Stranack: with backing of local MP, he could be a challenger in a safe ward

Andy Stranack: with backing of local MP, he could be a challenger in a safe ward

While Croydon Conservatives have been quick to publicise the outcomes of the generally foregone conclusions of their belatedly staged selection process – the May 22 election day will be just 75 days away by the time Heathfield’s Tories select their candidates – they have been much less transparent and forthcoming about the identities of any candidates seeking selection.

One possible high-profile challenger could be Andy Stranack, who has been active with the Jubilee Church and has lived and worked in Heathfield ward, doing much charitable community work. The Stranack campaign when he was Conservative candidate in the Croydon North by-election in November 2012 was well-received. With strong backing from Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, Stranack went to great lengths to avoid mentioning which party he represented.

Stranack has not only overcome cerebral palsy but has also recently been told that he has successfully battled cancer.

If Stranack is on Heathfield Tories’ candidate shortlist, he would pose a strong challenge, even to existing councillors, especially if Jubilee Church members take the time away from their community work to support his selection as they did for Cummings four years ago.

Conservative members in two other wards have named their candidates in the last couple of days. In Shirley, council leader Fisher and Richard Chatterjee were duly re-selected, with the retiring Janet Marshall replaced by Sue Bennett.

In the key battleground ward of Waddon, the Tories for the first time in this round of selections departed from their pattern of members apparently only voting those who have already been promoted on their campaign literature. Councillors Tony Harris and Simon Hoar were duly re-selected. In the absence of the here-today-gone-tomorrow Clare Hilley, Mark Johnson was selected, giving the Conservatives an all-male set of candidates.

Another who is thought to have the backing of Barwell, Johnson is a former chairman of the Addiscombe, Woodside and Ashburton (but not Waddon) Neighbourhood Partnership, who three years ago was a leading signatory to a petition opposing the Tory-run council’s decision to axe funding for the community liaison networks.

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2 Responses to Tory councillors under pressure for re-selection in Heathfield

  1. Out of the newly selected candidates for safe and marginal wards not a single BME candidate (Please correct me if I am wrong).The Conservative party is doing its best nationally to address this issue and have selected BME candidates as parliamentary candidates.

  2. Hallelujah they said, not for deselecting Mrs Pollard but for selecting Andy. Perhaps I should leave Church of England and join the Jubilee Church or any other evangelical church. I have more chances of being elected as a Conservative councillor.

    There are now three evangelical Christians in safe Conservative wards.

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