Andy Stranack was duly selected on Saturday night as a Tory candidate for Heathfield ward in May’s local elections.
Stranack’s selection saw a third sitting Conservative councillor dumped in the selection process so far and provided the latest sign that there’s a power struggle continuing at the top of the political party that has held control of Croydon Town Hall for the last eight years.
“They’re like rats in a sack at the moment,” one senior Town Hall figure said yesterday evening. “They’re all trying to position themselves for any possible outcome in May. But pulling all the strings is Barwell. This is not about the 2014 elections as much as getting Gavin re-elected in 2015.”
Stranack was selected to stand in the ultra-safe Tory ward along with his fellow member of the evangelical Jubilee Church congregation, Jason Cummings, and current Tory cabinet member Margaret Mead.
It means that Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the Tory group on Croydon Council, will be among those in the borough forced to deal with the effects of “austerity”. His wife, Councillor Helen Pollard, was de-selected by local members, meaning that from May 22 their family household will have to do without her £21,510 annual “allowances” for her part-time role with the council.
Stranack was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the November 2012 Croydon North parliamentary by-election. By a twist of house prices, among the residents Stranack seems likely to represent on the council will be Steve Reed OBE, the Blairite Labour MP for Croydon North, who recently moved to Heathfield from Streatham (presumably there were no properties in Croydon North to his liking).
Inside Croydon had last week predicted the Stranack challenge in Heathfield, and how it was sure to cause discomfiture in the households of the Meads (Margaret is married to the local Tories’ other deputy leader, Dudley Mead) and the Pollards, who both seem to have hitherto regarded local politics as a form of family business, between them receiving nearly £160,000 a year in council allowances for their four part-time posts.
Tim Pollard has been duly re-selected for Sanderstead, alongside current Croydon Mayor Yvette Hopley and Lynne Hale. Meanwhile, in Selsdon and Ballards, another safe ward, three Tory front-benchers, Dudley Mead, Sara Bashford and Phil Thomas, were all re-selected.
Thomas’s selection refutes the rumours that had been circulating Katharine Street for almost a year that the former school teacher and key Tory campaign manager was considering emigrating to the United States.
With Thomas still on the scene, the possibility of a leadership challenge to florid-faced Mike Fisher, whether or not the Conservatives win the election on May 22, becomes even greater. Thomas was one of the councillors on the selection panel when the Tories short-listed candidates for the Croydon South parliamentary seat last autumn, and delivered a stunning snub to Fisher. Town Hall observers suggest that Fisher has never recovered from that shock rejection.
And Thomas’s position in the hierarchy of Croydon Conservatives seems to have grown stronger, if only by a process of elimination. Dudley Mead, the ageing former leader, has already signalled his intention to step down from senior responsibilities by accepting nomination to be Croydon’s Mayor in 2014-2015 should the Tories retain power. Tim Pollard’s position looks to have been weakened by his wife’s de-selection at the expense of a key supporter of Gavin Barwell, the Croydon Central MP.
Helen Pollard joins Justin Cromie and Eddy Arram as councillors who their local Tory membership deemed to be not good enough to stand again, in addition to several retirements from the current Conservative crop.
Barwell’s influence over selections has been crucial. It has not always been entirely welcomed, either, with at least one hard-working activist quitting a senior role in one ward in Croydon Central, and other members murmuring about the lack of a single African-Caribbean Tory candidate for Croydon Council among those selected so far.
Barwell is likely to adopt his usual “am I bovvered?” position, with the prospect of his having three of his parliamentary staff – Bashford, Sue Bennett and Mario Creatura – sitting on the council from May 23, while Ian Parker has sacrificed his status as a councillor in order to concentrate full-time on his work as election agent for Barwell’s 2015 General Election campaign.
In contrast, Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway has but a single Croydon councillor on his staff (Hale), while Reed has none (although a trusted aide from Lambeth Council was among his first appointments).
How Bashford, Bennett and Creatura will manage to find time for their responsibilities as local councillors while also collecting state-funded salaries for working on Croydon Central constituents’ interests, and still have “spare time” for their own personal political canvassing and social media will remain one of life’s unsolved mysteries.
- Tory councillors under pressure for re-selection in Heathfield
- 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
- Meet Boris Johnson, Selsdon Halls, Mar 11
- St Patrick’s Night celebration, Ruskin House, Mar 17
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, 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
- 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
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 516,649 page views (Jan-Dec 2013)
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