Callton Young has been selected as Labour’s candidate for the West Thornton council by-election, expected to be held on May 5 alongside the London elections.
Young, a retired senior civil servant and recipient of the OBE, won on the second round of voting among local party members gathered in the Croydon North constituency office, beating Chaudry Khan, the septuagenarian chair of the Labour ward group, and Upper Norwood activist Patsy Cummings.
The selection meeting was held following the resignation of The Hon Emily Benn, the sitting Labour councillor who, less than two years after being elected, has decided to pursue her merchant banking career in New York.
There is a widespread feeling that in Young, the local party has found an outstanding new councillor, because short of there being an electoral earthquake in West Thornton in five weeks’ time, there is little doubt of the outcome of this vote: Labour’s three councillors in the ward were elected with at least 1,500 more votes than their nearest Tory challengers in 2014.
Each of the five candidates for selection last night had addressed the members before the vote, with Young making some powerful points about his upbringing as one of seven children with a single mother in Brixton. When he got his first job as an administrative assistant in the civil service, his family was so poor that he walked to Whitehall each day until he got his first pay cheque.
As well as a leading force in local community events, being a chair of governors at a special school in South Croydon and leading the Thornton Heath Festival organisation, 55-year-old Young has been a forceful campaigner on race relations issues, including heading the Parliamentary Bill team at the Home Office which had the task of amending the 1976 Race Relations Act to apply anti-discrimination laws to policing, as recommended by the Macpherson Report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
“Young has valuable experience of the workings of government and obvious leadership qualities which will make him a tremendous addition to the Town Hall roster of councillors,” one party insider said following the meeting.
“But he’s not been plucked from the little cliquey bubble that is Croydon Labour. So it will be interesting to see how quickly, following the by-election, Labour leader Tony Newman decides to make use of Young’s evident qualities beyond spending much of his time delivering election leaflets.”
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