You might think that Steve Reed OBE, the fortunate incumbent in a 12,000-vote Labour majority Croydon North parliamentary seat, might be a relaxed mood going into next week’s General Election.
The former leader of Lambeth Council and leading light in the Blairite Progress group has been behaving rather sniffily of late whenever his questioning of the flagship Labour Party policy has been mentioned. On one occasion he even descended to angrily wagging his finger at the Green Party’s Shasha Khan at a public meeting.
This touchiness over the Mansion Tax probably has less to do with Reed’s own purchase of a house in the Heathfield ward of Croydon – well to the south of his own Lambeth South constituency – which is now valued at something more than £900,000. Happily for Reed, that’s well below the Mansion Tax threshold.
Reed has never responded to Inside Croydon’s questions about his choice of neighbourhood, which is far away from his own constituents in the more deprived areas of Selhurst and Thornton Heath, but is instead in the leafy suburbs where his neighbours include Gavin Barwell’s mum.
Labour had always been a party that believed in redistributing wealth, from those with plenty to those more needy. It used to be a guiding principle. Until Reed’s hero, Bliar, came along. So Reed’s own antipathy towards a tax which charges the owners of large homes to help pay for, say, nurses working in the NHS, really ought not surprise us.
Reed broke ranks with Labour Party policy last year when he said, “If we’re going to have a tax on mansions, then it needs to be something that operates relative to the value of properties right across the country.”
Challenged on this in an election public forum recently, Reed dismissed his own comments by saying, “Don’t believe everything you read in Inside Croydon.” Which is a bit odd, because his remarks were reported by the Evening Boris.
“He sounded narked,” one observer said. “Like he really wanted to score a point about something.”
For a time when he was first an MP, while he was still living in Streatham and had few political allies in Croydon, Reed was an enthusiastic contributor to this website.
Until one day, when he suggested that Inside Croydon had libelled him when we dared make reference to his own record when running Lambeth’s so-called “co-operative” council. He demanded that the offending article should be removed from the interweb. The article remains published, as you can see here, and despite the inferred threat by Reed, Inside Croydon has never received any letters from his lawyers.
Reed has one of those very selective Wikipedia entries, a bit like the Tory grandee Grant Shapps/Michael Green.
In Reed’s case, it omits important chunks from his political career, such as how the then leader of Lambeth ordered council staff to spy on the emails of his fellow Labour councillors. Under Reed, Big Brother was stalking the corridors of Brixton Town Hall.
Nor is there any mention on his Progress profile, either, of how Reed had to face a Labour Party misconduct hearing when he disclosed personal information about another councillor.
And Reed’s profile pages fail to mention of how under policies introduced during his time as leader of Lambeth, that borough’s “co-operative” council has been sending in the bailiffs to enforce compulsory eviction of the residents of… housing co-operatives*. It would be reasonable to surmise that Comrade Reed will not be dancing around the Maypole on Friday to celebrate International Workers’ Day in Cressingham Gardens, for example, where the latest social cleansing exercise is taking place.
Most recently, Reed’s taken to indulging in unstatesmanlike online quarrels with other candidates, picking on Khan because of a nickname (“Green Knight”) which was foisted upon him and because of an Obama-like slogan – “Yes We Khan!” – that was suggested for his long-running campaign against the Beddington incinerator.
“How hilarious!” Reed tweeted earlier this month about Khan’s moniker, not making himself sound pompous one little bit… We’ve scanned the interweb looking for Reed’s most recent statements about something that really matters, such as the incinerator, which he claims he opposes, but have failed to find anything. We may have simply missed it. Though we doubt it.
“Reed’s unusual reaction to being exposed for what he is – a Blairite – is most fascinating,” Khan said.
“As someone on the genuine left, I find Steve Reed indistinguishable from the Conservative candidate Vidhi Mohan. His position on the right of the Labour Party is quite evident.”
“Let It Go is a pamphlet that Steve Reed co-wrote for New Labour pressure group, Progress. The pamphlet champions the opening up of public services to private and not-for-profit provision. This is very much a Blairite position.”
Reed’s pamphlet, written for Progress, was reviewed on the Progress website: “It is increasingly clear that a new vision for an inclusive politics cannot be limited to the scope of public service delivery.” Translated into the sort of English which doesn’t disguise Reed’s ultimate goal, he remains in favour of the sort of privatisation-by-stealth schemes which hand over public services to private corporations to profit from.
“When speaking to Labour voters in Croydon North,” Khan said, “I sense that a significant number of them, and there are many of them, are traditional Labour voters who are not necessarily keen on ‘letting go’ of our public services to private operators. This is probably why Steve Reed is quick to dismiss his Blairite position in public and plays to the audience instead.”
*For more on the on-going story about Lambeth’s evictions of residents, the following article on BrixtonBuzz about Councillor Matthew Bennett – who happens to work in Reed’s parliamentary office – is instructive
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