STEVEN DOWNES, Inside Croydon’s editor, on the latest self-important politico who thinks he can bully and intimidate
Poor old Winston McKenzie, UKIP’s branch chairman for Lambeth and Croydon North and now their parliamentary candidate for Croydon North. With each passing day, the man notorious for the disorganised farce that was May’s chaotic Croydon Carnival demonstrates that he is ever more out of his depth.
Last night McKenzie threatened legal action against Inside Croydon. McKenzie failed to state on what grounds he might be seeking redress through the law, but the notion of the failed boxer, failed bar owner and serially failed politician going to Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne manages to fill the editorial staff at Inside Croydon Towers with nothing other than … complete mirth.
McKenzie was on Twitter, in his usual, barely coherent manner, trying to make some point to Chuka Umunna, the Labour parliamentary front-bencher: “Chuka is wrong. Judge me on my ability! ‘The colour of a man’s skin should be of no more significance than the colour of his eyes’,” McKenzie wrote, signing off as usual with, “CHAMP”. In caps. McKenzie likes his capitals.
It is assumed that, when McKenzie refers to “champ”, he is referring to himself. Were he a box of washing powder, this would make him subject of multiple complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority for misrepresentation and “passing off”. But as a politician, the public accept that they tell lies.
McKenzie certainly never won any championship titles as a pro boxer. McKenzie’s brothers, Clinton and Duke, were indeed both champions, and class acts. But in the ring, Winston was never in the same league. In a professional career between 1975 and 1982, McKenzie won six of his 16 fights.
As a wannabe politician, McKenzie’s record is even worse. He’s certainly not a “champ”. Fought eight, lost eight, a couple by a political knock-out.
Wikipedia refers to McKenzie as a “perennial” political candidate. Didn’t realise the online encyclopaedia did understatement.
In 11 years, McKenzie has stood in eight elections for public office, plus running for the leadership of two different political parties. He finished plum last in both of those. McKenzie didn’t used to stick around in any political group for very long, though he has at least stayed with Nigel Farage’s party since 2010.
But London Mayor, councillor for South Norwood… wave a ballot paper in McKenzie’s direction, and he’ll want his name added to it.
His best result so far was when third in the Croydon North by-election in 2012, attracting 1,400 votes and just, for once, saving his deposit. But third is certainly not “champ” material, and on other occasions when seeking public support, McKenzie has performed badly. As a politician, the public seem to think McKenzie would make a very good boxer.
As always with parties of the far right, there is a less amusing undercurrent. In McKenzie’s case, that surfaced in his homophobic remarks during that 2012 campaign, when he spoke against gay adoption, prompting other members of his own party to apologise for such offensive and out-dated attitudes.
Undaunted, last May McKenzie was “campaigning” again. This time just 480 residents of South Norwood voted for him in the local elections, although he had predicted that UKIP was about to cause a “political earthquake”.
The voters were doubtless put off by McKenzie’s “organisation” of the infamous pre-election Croydon Carnival, where a local steel band walked out when they realised that they were performing on behalf of the far-right party – McKenzie hadn’t bothered telling the musicians he was organising the event for UKIP.
McKenzie finished ninth in that South Norwood election. Again, a long way from being able to call himself a “champ”.
His worst electoral performance came in 2008, when standing as an independent against Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson to be Mayor of London. McKenzie finished last of 10 candidates. Worse, he managed to poll just half the number of first-preference votes cast for an English Democrat candidate who was no longer in the election, because he had withdrawn. More “chump” than “champ”, then?
So it was on Twitter last night, when McKenzie pleaded, “Judge me on my ability”, that I broke off from a discussion with Grayson Perry about the merits of various entrants in Strictly Come Dancing to respond to the UKIPper by suggesting that judging him on his ability was exactly what the voters have been doing, and that he was out of his depth.
This appeared to annoy McKenzie somewhat.
“I think U should go back to school,” McKenzie tweeted. “I can’t stand cowards like you. Perhaps you’re missing something from childhood.” And then he added his trademark lie: “CHAMP.”
I responded. As you do. “Who’s a coward Winston? Your political career has been repeated failure, and you’ve shown yourself to be a bigot.” Reasonable question, and statements of fact.
The “chump” shot back: “You don’t state who you are. You are, in my opinion, a complete coward. I don’t need qualifications to recognise that.” And his trademark lie once more, perhaps to convince himself: “CHAMP.”
Now over the past four years or so of this website’s existence, we have had cause on numerous occasions to email McKenzie with questions about his and other UKIP candidatures. My emails carry my name, email address (naturally) and telephone number. As editor, my name and a contact email address also appear on every page of this website.
We have also phoned McKenzie and his “campaign manager”, Waddon resident Marianne Bowness, the ex-wife of Peter Bowness, the Tory peer and former leader of Croydon Council. Until 2012, McKenzie was reasonably competent and professional in handling his correspondence, replying to our questions and filling in our pre-election questionnaires. But more recently, he has opted to ignore our requests for comments and failed to return our phone calls.
But he undoubtedly does know who I am, and he was clearly in serious error to claim that I don’t state that publicly.
This to-and-forth continued for another few exchanges, McKenzie, like an old pro who’s taken one punch to the head too many, gradually slowed down and eventually left the ring altogether. But not before he tried another low-blow: “Send me your details so at least I can sue you personally,” he wrote, clearly incapable of finding the email I sent to him as recently as last week. And still he lied: “CHAMP”, he wrote at the end of his tweet.
Obviously, when McKenzie has consulted his lawyers, if we receive a letter, we will share its contents with our loyal reader. But don’t hold your breath…
The UKIP membership in Croydon, such as it is, might be considering itself very fortunate to have such a calm, intellectual and respected figure as Winston McKenzie as one of their parliamentary candidates, after they had a narrow escape – in Croydon South as well as Croydon North – with Elizabeth Jones.
Jones comes from Bermondsey and talks as if she is Hyacinth Bucket. She is the chairwoman of Southwark UKIP.
Last week, when taking part in a round-table radio interview, Jones completely lost it during a debate with a Trades Union spokeswoman, turning on her and yelling at the top of her voice to tell her to shut up. The Huffington Post described Jones’s performance as “screaming like a banshee”.
That Croydon candidate selection meeting last week, when UKIP chose McKenzie over Jones, must have been a humdinger. Spoilt for choice.
There’s an audio clip of Jones here – fast forward to around 13min 30sec into the (deathly dull) piece. You need to hear it to believe it.
And to think Jones could have been on the hustings platforms with Steve Reed and Vidhi Mohan. The people of Croydon North have been sorely cheated.
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Coming to Croydon
- 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
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