Some within the Croydon Tories are attempting a coup to sack the local Conservative Federation’s chairman and replace him with the controversial retired senior policeman who was criticised in the inquiry into the brutal death of Stephen Lawrence.
According to our mole based in the garden outside the Tories’ headquarters in Purley, pressure is being brought on the current chairman, Robert “Arthur” Askey, to stand down immediately so that they can replace him with former Coulsdon West councillor David Osland.
The moves are understood to pre-date this week’s Town Hall scandal surrounding the greedy £10,000 extra allowances claim by the Tories’ council leader, florid-faced Mike Fisher. But the attempt to topple Askey just a few weeks after the Conservatives’ demoralising defeat at the local elections suggests mounting panic among a political cadre accustomed to being in power in Croydon.
The Croydon Conservative Federation, which oversees the Tories’ campaigning and operations across all three of the borough’s parliamentary constituencies, is not due to have its annual meeting until March, when any changes to its officers would usually be expected to take place. But that would be too late to influence May’s General Election, when the Tories fear they could lose one of the two parliamentary seats they hold in the borough.
Some in Croydon’s Tories believe they need to make use of Osland’s unique skill set, and they need it now.
Osland was one of the Met’s most senior officers, as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner for south-east London, at the time of Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder in 1993. Osland was later singled out for special criticism by the McPherson Report, which accused the Metropolitan Police of being “institutionally racist”.
The McPherson Report was highly critical of Osland for allowing the breakdown in the police’s relationship with Stephen Lawrence’s family and lawyer, stating: “Mr Osland should not be surprised that some who heard his evidence might regard this as another example of institutional racism at work”.
After his retirement on a police pension, Osland became a Tory councillor for Coulsdon West, working closely with his ward colleague Gavin Barwell. Barwell has since gone on to become MP for Croydon Central. Osland stood down as a councillor in May, conveniently making way for Barwell’s self-proclaimed “gobby factotum”, Mario Creatura, to stand in a safe Tory ward. Creatura now has access to £11,000-worth of councillor allowances in addition to his state-funded job which involves watching the television and running his boss’s Twitter account.
At the local elections in May, the Tories lost control of Waddon (in Croydon South) and Ashburton, while failing to win back control in Addiscombe (both wards in Croydon Central). Since then, Barwell has been having sleepless nights. It is not unreasonable to assume that Barwell is one of those who may be seeking urgent changes at the top of his local party organisation.
Current chairman Askey’s political track record is, at best, patchy. In 2010, Askey lost his own seat on the council when Labour won Upper Norwood ward. Askey had claimed that Upper Norwood Joint Library was “safe in Conservative hands”. The Tory council later cut funding to UNJL.
As the Croydon Conservative Federation chairman, Askey has presided over dwindling local party membership, he oversaw the Croydon South parliamentary candidate selection in which Fisher, his group leader was humiliated, and in May Croydon Tories suffered their worst defeat in Town Hall elections since 1994.
The Croydon Conservative Federation, which has another former councillor, Ian Parker, working for them as a full-time agent, did not respond to Inside Croydon’s questions over its senior officers.
Perhaps they are uncomfortable admitting that it could be just a matter of time before “Arthur” is saying “Goodbye, playmates.”
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Coming to Croydon
- Thornton Heath Festival, Sep 7
- Stop the Incinerator Quiz Night, Sep 8
- Tell Me About Your Ex, Spread Eagle Theatre, Sep 9-13
- David Lean Cinema: Camille Claudel, Sep 11
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Police question time, LNK at Centrale, Sep 17
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org