JEREMY CLACKSON, Inside Croydon’s Motoring Correspondent, has uncovered evidence that one of the borough’s most senior Tory councillors has been busily assisting a roads lobbyist to undermine efforts to make the borough’s streets safer for all
When the Labour group on Croydon Council finally got round to implementing its manifesto commitment to introduce 20mph zones, albeit in the most timid of manners, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Conservative opposition at the Town Hall.The Tories’ stance on road safety in Croydon is proving to be very contradictory.
MP Gavin Barwell has been keen to claim a central role in getting legislation to make it an offence for those using illegal drugs to drive when under the influence. Barwell used endorsements from the bereaved parents of Lillian Groves, the 14-year-old killed by a dangerous driver in New Addington, to bolster his campaign in the General Election.
But when it comes to implementing a safer speed limit across the borough, in the hope of avoiding further tragic deaths, Croydon Conservatives have been less enthusiastic.
Mario Creatura is Barwell’s “gobby factotum” in his Westminster office, who now pockets a councillor’s allowances on top of his parliamentary salary. In March this year – that is, when still hoping to win people’s votes in the election – Creatura proclaimed on behalf of the local Tories that they were not against 20mph.
Yet when it came to the crunch, Croydon’s Conservative councillors spoke against the motion and then abstained.
And Inside Croydon has discovered that Phil “Two Permits” Thomas has been liaising closely with Peter “More Faces than the Town Hall Clock” Morgan over the 20mph proposals.
Councillor Thomas was the Tories’ cabinet member responsible for the state of the borough’s roads until they lost the 2014 local elections. Email correspondence seen by Inside Croydon shows that within an hour of the publication of the results of the council consultation of Croydon North residents over the introduction of 20mph zone, Councillor Thomas was forwarding information to Morgan.
It is the sort of service from local councillors that most Croydon residents can only dream about. But Phil Thomas is not Morgan’s local councillor: “Two permits” is a councillor for Selsdon and Ballards ward, while Morgan lives in Coulsdon…Of course, Thomas – dubbed “Two Permits” because of the apparent necessity for him to use two different cars on his council business – might have just been doing a favour to a fellow member of the Croydon Conservative Party. Except that Morgan was suspended as a Tory member last year when it was discovered that he was simultaneously a member of UKIP, too. And they reckon Labour has a problem with entryists.
One of Thomas’s much-loved cars which carries the benefit of free parking anywhere in the borough – though only when he is on official council business, of course – was a slinky little low-slung two-seater sports number. It is interesting to note that it was Thomas, when the Tories held control of the council, who pushed through the notorious ban on speed humps in Croydon.First suspended by the Tories, now even UKIP has kicked Morgan out as a member.
But Morgan remains part of the Alliance of British Drivers and a loyal supporter of the controversial Croydon Communities [sic] Consortium, where his conduct recently might make even the bombastic Thomas think twice about being associated with him in future.Because it was at the recent CCC annual meeting that Morgan revealed what he thought was acceptable public commentary.
CCC is supposed to be a group that can represent the whole of Croydon, one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. It was mired in difficulty when one of its most senior officers used social media to send out a tweet which, under the heading “Tick-tock”, showed an image of an Islamist aiming a gun at the camera, above the message: “It’s not immigration. It’s not asylum seeking. It’s an INVASION”.
This, according to Morgan, is not racist, but a bit of “fun”.
Morgan announced this in front of an approving panel of CCC officials, headed by chairwoman Elizabeth Ash. Morgan thought nothing of announcing that he had himself tweeted this message before, and he said that he would do it again.
Morgan’s frankness on this matter failed to make it into CCC’s minutes of the meeting. So CCC’s chairwoman Elizabeth Ash will probably claim that it never happened. But the black and minority ethnic members of the community who attended remember it clearly, and some have said that they were shocked by the tenor of the meeting and some of the views expressed.
Morgan’s views will not be a surprise to Ash, who is another who has regularly been in private correspondence with him regarding the anti-20mph campaign.
Morgan’s admission at the meeting was revealing.
Morgan has long been suspected of harbouring several social media identities. Indeed, one of the reasons that Peter Staveley, the chairman of UKIP in Croydon Central and South, sought Morgan’s expulsion from his party was because he was running more than a dozen Twitter accounts, many apparently “official” accounts for UKIP in south London, but never with official approval.
And Morgan appears to have many different Twitter identities. Saynotto20 seems likely to be one of them, as does Calvy1989. The latter claims to be Calvin Mantell, who describes himself as “a black man”. In June, “Calvy” and “Saynoto20” were posting near identical tweets within 25 minutes of each other, with Calvy claiming – just like Peter Morgan did at the CCC meeting – that the “Tick-tock” tweets were not racist or Islamophobic, but that they were “Quite funny”.
While possible, it seems less than plausible that these Twitter accounts are being run by different people.
But why might Morgan invent a fictitious character called Calvin Mantell?
Perhaps the truth lies in Morgan’s expulsion from UKIP, and the creation of yet another Twitter account, NOTCroydonUKIP.
The Calvin Mantell account – supposedly run by a black man, remember – had long derided UKIP’s “star” performer, Winston McKenzie: “He fits every negative stereotype of black people and gives us all a bad name,” was one of its earlier offerings.
Staveley, however, has made an even worse error as far as Morgan is concerned: the UKIP General Election candidate in Croydon Central is in favour of 20mph zones.
“UKIP members in Croydon strongly support SayNOto20,” the NOTCroydonUKIP account claimed publicly, “Peter Staveley opposes it as he prefers personal hatred to promoting UKIP policy.”
“Personal hatred”? Of whom? Peter Morgan, perhaps?
The inter-dependence of the bizarre and bile-ridden NOTCroydonUKIP Twitter account with SayNoto20 and others suggests that there may be just one person behind most of them. Indeed, many of the messages they carry are identical.
But it is not just on social media that Morgan has been creating anonymous accounts or using bogus identities to try to further his – and apparently Phil Thomas’s – personal agenda on traffic and roads policies.
The Freedom of Information website, What do they Know?, has recently published correspondence, apparently from a Croydon resident called “Mark Black”, who has been firing off regular and frequent complaints to some poor Croydon council officer about delays in providing him with details of the ill-conceived 20mph consultation in the north of the borough.
A relative of the real Mark Black has complained that the family are very angry and upset that Morgan has deviously abused their good name for his own ends.
This is the same “Mark Black” who featured in Inside Croydon‘s recent exposé of Morgan when the roads lobbyist was unlawfully plastering parts of the borough with posters and stickers for the Say No To 20 campaign.
It is not clear why Croydon Council are wasting their time on what the Information Commissioner’s Office describe as a vexatious requester, but the ICO’s guidance makes it clear that “there are circumstances under the FoI Act where a requester’s true identity can be relevant, for example, where an authority is considering aggregating the cost of requests or refusing a request as vexatious or repeated.”
Morgan has form in this respect, going back nearly 20 years.
It was Morgan who ran a campaign against the development of the Tramlink network in Croydon, and in 1997 Mike Jewitt, the then chairman of the council’s highways and transportation committee, told a public meeting that Morgan and a campaign called “Sense With Roads” had cost the council £18,000 to deal with its questions. This was before social media. Morgan’s organisation’s 75 members raised 500 objections to policies in the council’s planning blueprint. Every single Sense With Roads objection was thrown out by the Department for the Environment.
Peter Morgan remains shameless when it comes to being sensitive to the feeling of others within the community. His disrespect for the principles of democracy and the broader community interests suggest that maybe even UKIP was never going to be right-wing enough for his form of extremism.
But how long will it take for Councillor Phil Thomas, Croydon’s Tories and the council-funded CCC to disassociate themselves from Peter Morgan and to desist from providing support to his own odious brand of street politics?
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