Is Lambeth South starting to be reclaimed as Croydon North?
It is difficult not to put that sort of construction on matters when the MP, Steve Reed OBE, was reduced to lobbying local party members to vote for his friend and preferred candidate to be elected as the influential chair of his Constituency Labour Party, but the meeting then plumped for the alternative candidate.
At the back of the hall at the end of the meeting, one Croydon Labour Party member was heard to say, “At last we’re getting our branch back.”
Reed, who has never lived in his constituency but now resides in a £900,000 house on Shirley Church Road, was one of the Labour MPs who last night decided not to oppose the Conservative Government’s Welfare Bill.
Such conduct is not likely to enamour him with his party’s grassroots. Not that Reed is likely to care overmuch: he has a 21,000 majority. He has been regarded with suspicion by some Croydon Labour Party members since even before his selection as the candidate in late 2012, when the constituency became vacant following the death of the highly regarded and widely respected Malcolm Wicks.
The contest for Croydon North CLP chair was between Catriona Ogilvy and Patsy Cummings.
Ogilvy has previously been the chair of Streatham CLP, the constituency where Reed lived before becoming an MP. Ogilvy’s partner is a former Lambeth councillor from Reed’s time when he ruled the Brixton Town Hall roost.
Cummings is a party activist from Upper Norwood who does much work within the Catholic Association for Racial Justice. She was an unsuccessful candidate in Fairfield ward in last year’s local elections, and missed out on a place on Croydon Council again this year when David Wood was selected ahead of her as the Labour candidate in Selhurst.
Cummings is widely tipped as a likely replacement for Pat Ryan, recently dropped as the group’s chief whip on the council, if he does decide to retire as a councillor for Upper Norwood ward ahead of the 2018 Town Hall elections.
And therein lies the rub: the Ogilvy v Cummings election was as much about maintaining a grip on Labour’s council candidate selection, which begins next year, as any philosophical struggle for the future of the Labour Party. Cummings is seen as being closely associated with council leader Tony “C’mon You ‘Ammers” Newman, and her position as chair of one of the three CLPs in Croydon could be influential.
Perhaps perversely, Reed and his supporters’ strongest support from a CLP comes from the constituency with least Labour support, Croydon South, which has a single Labour ward (Waddon) on the council, but where the branch is run by partners Andy Bagnall (chair) and Jo Milligan (who until very recently was secretary and treasurer). Croydon South has opted to nominate uber-Blairite Liz Kendall to be the next leader of the Labour Party, something of which Reed would approve.
Uninspiring shortlist for City Hall vote
Labour candidates for selection to run against Tory City Hall incumbent Steve O’Connell in Croydon and Sutton in the London elections next May present a particularly uninspiring bunch.
Labour members have to choose from an all-women shortlist for the Croydon and Sutton candidate. With the next-door constituency of Lambeth and Southwark being a safe Labour seat and also being selected from an AWS, it seems Croydon and Sutton has proved to be less appealing to those Labour women with serious political ambitions.
Sarah Jones, who missed out on becoming Croydon Central’s MP by fewer than 200 votes in May, has opted not to follow-through on her efforts and seek a seat in the London Assembly, while New Addington councillor Louisa Woodley, who performed relatively well in the London elections in 2012 when Labour got the majority of the vote in Croydon for the first time in electoral history, has also declined to run. Indeed, there is not a single Labour woman councillor on the shortlist.
The Labour candidates seeking selection are Marina Ahmad, from Bromley, Emily Brothers, who ran for Parliament in Sutton and Cheam in May, Katherine Chibah, a Labour councillor in Enfield, and a former councillor from Bethnal Green, Cate Tuitt.
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