Conservative Croydon councillor Jason Cummings, who works as a parliamentary assistant at Westminster to Tory MP Gavin Barwell, has applied to become a supporter of the Labour Party.
Cummings is understood to be one of thousands of members of other political groups and parties who over the past month have paid £3 to become Labour supporters, ahead of what is supposed to be an open primary to choose that party’s new leader.
Cummings is a member of Croydon Tories’ shadow cabinet at the Town Hall under Tim Pollard. It is not known whether Cummings signed up with Labour with the knowledge of Pollard or of his employer, Croydon Central MP Barwell.
Barwell, of course, has only a passing acquaintance with openness and transparency when it comes to declaring his political allegiances: he spent most of the General Election campaign trying to appear anything but a Tory, even drafting bogus letters of support for his constituents to send to their neighbours which explicitly omitted any mention of the Conservatives or David Cameron.
It is, of course, entirely possible, if unlikely, that Cummings is intending “to cross the floor” of the Town Hall chamber and become Labour’s 41st Croydon councillor. As a councillor for Heathfield, Tory Cummings may have been swayed politically by Progress MP Steve Reed OBE, who bought a £900,000 house in the ward recently. However, experienced observers of local politics suggest that contact with Reed is only likely to make Cummings more right-wing.
Cummings, whose official documentation from when he stood for election to the council last year gives a home address on Shepherds Way, Monks Hill, is a relative newcomer to Croydon Conservatives, having been recruited via the party’s strong links with the Jubilee Church. “So he’s already familiar with entryism,” one senior Conservative told Inside Croydon.
Cummings’ Labour application is thought to be one of several from prominent local Tories in Croydon which have been referred to Labour Party HQ with a recommendation of being rejected.
Voting papers for the Labour leadership, deputy leadership and London Mayoral candidate go out later this week. The one-member, one-vote primary system was introduced by Labour as a means of reducing the power of the trades unions, removing their bloc votes. Since its introduction, however, Blairites such as Reed have been bellyaching that many former members, supporters and trades unionists have had to audacity to sign-up with the party again, attracted back by Jeremy Corbyn’s “traditional” Labour values.
The Daily Torygraph last month encouraged its readers each to donate £3 towards Labour Party funds, in the belief that they could vote for Corbyn as a means of undermining the opposition. At least one Tory MP, Tim Loughton, has been caught attempting to sign up as a Labour supporter.
Those on the right of the Labour Party have been calling for a postponement of the ballot, because they fear that Corbyn might actually win the leadership. Baroness McDonagh, a former party functionary under Bliar, was quoted in yesterday’s Sunday Times as saying that Labour’s organisation could not cope with weeding out what she described as “entryism on an industrial scale”.
In Croydon, at least, the local officials appear to be sharp enough to cope in spotting the latest right-wing attempt to take over the Labour Party.
- The Conservatives in the capital will be running a truly open primary for the selection of their London Mayoral candidate, allowing all Londoners to vote, regardless of their political affiliation. It may be the one occasion when ex-Tory and ex-UKipper Peter Morgan will get to use all of his two dozen-plus social media aliases to cast a vote.
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