Sarah Jones is the new chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party.
Jones’s election comes a little more than a year since she narrowly lost another, slightly bigger, vote, that to elect the MP for the constituency, when she missed out on unseating Tory Gavin Barwell by just 165 votes.
Becoming chair of the CLP may strengthen Jones’s own resolve, and her position within the local Labour Party, for her to seek selection again to try to win the seat, which has been held by the Conservatives since 2005.
Jones had been chair of her local party before. This time round, she was elected at a meeting of the local party’s membership on Wednesday night, and takes over from Bob Hewlett, who has stood down for personal reasons.
Rob Butler was elected as treasurer, taking over from Rob Elliott, who has also opted to stand down.
With Jones moving up, Yvonne Green, a Unison union rep at Croydon Council, takes over one of the two vice-chair positions alongside Edie Fairservice.
Croydon Central’s three delegates to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool in September will be Jones, Fairservice and Bart Konechni.
Barred from Wednesday’s meeting was the CLP’s secretary, David White, who has been suspended by the Labour Party over an ill-advised tweet involving Ken Livingstone, Adolf Hitler and the Croydon Sadvertiser. There’s a sentence you’ll unlikely to see written again in a hurry.
Understandably Jones was known to have been bitterly disappointed at not having managed to win the parliamentary seat 12 months ago. But during the recent London Mayoral and Assembly campaign, she confided in colleagues that she is ready to consider seeking selection again.
The next occasion when Croydon Central’s parliamentary seat is up for grabs is scheduled to be the General Election of 2020, although there are increasing suggestions that – following the EU referendum next month and David Cameron’s decision to stand down as leader of the Conservative Party – it is possible that this parliament will not go its full, five-year fixed term.
And Barwell, who has been MP for Croydon Central since 2010, is also among nearly three dozen Tory MPs currently undergoing police investigation for their failure to properly declare their election spending. If a case is brought against Barwell and he is found to have broken election law, he could face a jail sentence and a by-election would have to be called.
Certainly, Barwell appears to be seriously considering alternative employment, and sooner rather than later. At Monday’s Mayor Making nonsense in Croydon Town Hall, Barwell was telling anyone who’d listen about his keenness for the idea of the borough having a directly elected mayor – as they already have in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Lewisham. There was a touch of the Yosser Hughes about his approach. It was fairly clear who Barwell thinks is right person for Croydon: “Gissa job!” the Liverpool football supporter never said.
With a boundary review coming, it is possible that the Croydon Central constituency will be made less “marginal” by 2020 than it was for the Tories in 2015. But it is still likely to attract a number of figures in Labour seeking selection for what is now regarded as a more “winnable” seat than it was when Jones was first selected.
In 2013, Jones was chosen from an all-women short-list which included the deputy leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Alison Butler. Butler could again try to step up the political ladder, though the strongest challenge to Jones is more likely to come from Fiona Twycross, the London Assembly Member who actually lives in the Croydon Central constituency and was this week given a number of senior tasks by the new London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Now installed as an officer of the constituency party, Jones will have plenty of opportunities to approach the membership – the people who will ultimately make the candidate selection – to make her case to fight the seat again.
Many already think that there will be a lot of strong advantages in giving Jones the chance of a re-match. “Sarah fought a terrific, positive campaign, and brought in several strong ideas, like re-zoning the commuter fares for Croydon,” one Labour member said.
“If she decides she wants to run again, she will be a recognisable figure to many in the electorate, from all the hard work she did in 2015. And she will have also gained valuable experience from that campaign, which ought not go to waste.”
When contacted by Inside Croydon about her plans to seek parliamentary selection in future, Jones declined to answer.
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