VOTE 2014: It is not just some among the black and minority ethnic Conservatives in Croydon who feel that they have been overlooked by their own party.
Thornton Heath lawyer Dwain Coward, previously a Labour supporter, has become so disillusioned by the political machinations of the major parties that he has opted to stand as an independent candidate in his home ward in next week’s Town Hall elections.
“I believe the major political parties are seriously failing the electorate,” Coward told Inside Croydon.
“On a local level I believe that we need another pair of eyes, other than Labour and Conservative, going over Town Hall business for the good of the local people.”
Coward was brought up in Wolverhampton by Jamaican parents, his father working as a bus driver, his mother as a stewardess on West Coast trains. The family moved to Thornton Heath when Coward was 10 years old, and he has been based there ever since, now living and working in the borough with his wife and young family of three small children.
After attending Stanley Tech and the University of Greenwich, Coward qualified as a solicitor in 2007 and was called to the bar as a barrister in 2012, so he now holds dual legal qualifications. Since 2010, he has been running Coward & Co Solicitors on Windmill Road, offering legal services to local people.
But his experience in local politics has not been a good one. His first, and last, meeting of the local Labour’s ward branch put him off party politics and determined him to stand as an independent on May 22.
“I was a member of Labour’s Thornton Heath group but found that the in-fighting was off-putting. There was no unity in Labour Thornton Heath.
“If elected I will, as I would professionally put forward my client instructions in court, act on instructions from the people of Thornton Heath. My ethos is one of representing the people without the drawbacks of party politics.”
Coward has spent his career advocating in employment and immigration tribunals and in courts from local magistrates to the High Court for the rights of ordinary people.
“I won’t be distracted by ‘party politics’ and I don’t have to toe the party line. I am free to concentrate on representing the best interests of the people of Thornton Heath.”
Coward’s name will appear on a crowded ballot form in a Labour stronghold ward as the sole independent. From the left are three Labour candidates, plus someone from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, as well as three Green Party candidates.
Labour’s candidates, likely to be returned next Friday, are all current councillors: Pat Clouder, Matthew Kyeremeh and Karen Jewitt, the latter pair having each endured deselection or the threat of it.
Jewitt has been a councillor for Woodside, whose Labour Party members opted for the as yet untried political talents of Hamida Ali. Jewitt then won over the members in Thornton Heath, at the expense of sitting councillor Louisa Woodley. Woodley was then selected to stand in New Addington.
The case of Kyeremeh is even more involved: despite a poor attendance record at Town Hall meetings through 2012 and 2013, ostensibly to visit his ailing father in Ghana, Kyeremeh was re-selected in Thornton Heath last summer. When it emerged that he had been campaigning in Africa for another political party, which has some affiliation with Britain’s Tories, Kyeremeh’s selection was questioned, within a few days of the deadline for nominations. The move to replace Kyeremeh was rejected by local members, so he’s on the ballot form next week.
UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are both fielding two candidates in Thornton Heath.
The Tories are putting up three candidates, but they are so short of members in Croydon that one of them is former senior policeman David Osland, who had previously announced his retirement as a local councillor after spending 20 years as a Coulsdon councillor. Given Thornton Heath’s diverse ethnic make-up, the choice of Osland seems especially insensitive, even by Tory standards: Osland was in charge of the early stages of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.
“I feel the Tories putting up Osland is an insensitive move considering the huge lack of justice which surrounded the Lawrence case at the time at which Osland was involved with the investigation,” Coward told Inside Croydon.
“Following the McPherson report into the Stephen Lawrence investigation, many in ethnic minority communities have a grave mistrust of the police.
“The Tories clearly haven’t put much effort into finding a suitable candidate for Thornton Heath.”
With the party machines cranking into gear, and those voters who bother to turn out next Thursday tending to vote in line with their usual custom and practice, Coward has his work cut out as an independent candidate to get elected. “Will the elections see the rise of a true local champion of the people?” he asked. “Clearly, that’s up to the voters.”
Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:
- Threat of UKIP forces Tories to press the panic button
- WEST THORNTON: Tories forget to include entire ward in election ad
- These are the councillors who voted to build on a public park
- Questions mount over political influence at council
- What Barwell fails to tell you and the myths of Council Tax
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- The list of candidates for the May 22 local elections
Coming to Croydon
- Thornton Heath local election hustings, May 14
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- David Lean Cinema: The Invisible Woman, May 15
- Broad Green local election hustings, May 15
- Coulsdon West local election hustings, May 16
- Mrs McMoon and Signor Baffo at Stanley Halls, May 17
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Warehouse International Palywriting Festival, May 17-18
- Riverside Animal Centre Open Day, May 18
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- Greek Myths: stories and mask-making, May 27
- Howard Marks: Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe, May 29
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Tales from Ancient Greece, Upper Norwood Library, May 29
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, May 31
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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