Officials in Croydon North Constituency Labour Party have been forced to make a humiliating climbdown over their attempts to stage a leadership nomination meeting which sought to exclude the vast majority of the area’s members.
Ann O’Connor, who was recently installed by the local MP, Steve Reed OBE, as the CLP chair, issued a somewhat sheepish email to members at lunchtime today, cancelling tomorrow evening’s meeting of delegates of the General Committee.
The Croydon North GC numbers fewer than 60. Croydon North CLP’s overall membership is 1,300.
By excluding the CLP’s membership from the meeting, there was strong suspicion that Reed and O’Connor wanted to endorse the candidacy for the Labour leadership of Owen Smith. Or what one ordinary member called “an absolute stitch-up”.
Twelve months ago, much to Progress vice-chairman Reed’s embarrassment, the CLP voted overwhelmingly to support Jeremy Corbyn to become the new Labour leader.
Today, O’Connor, together with CLP Secretary Janet Campbell, wrote, “Despite our best efforts.”
“Please note that the Leadership Supporting Nomination Meeting is cancelled.”
O’Connor’s email offered no explanation for the abrupt cancellation, nor any apology.
Yesterday, together with Reed, O’Connor met with leadership challenger Owen Smith on an unannounced – and poorly attended – visit to central Croydon.
But the fury caused after Inside Croydon revealed the plans to stage the nomination meeting without the members saw a number of angry complaints lodged with the London Labour regional offices, several of which highlighted how O’Connor had failed to provide the required seven days’ notice of any such meeting.
“What a shambles,” was how one member of the CLP described it.
Another also pointed out that the intention to exclude local members from having their say over the leadership nomination is, in effect, confirmed by the cancellation letter.
“If they wanted, they could have called an all-member meeting for any date up to August 12, provided that they gave the required seven days’ notice,” said one senior figure within the local Labour Party.
“But their letter signs off, ‘Best wishes for the summer holiday’. That underlines that they never had any intention of involving the members in this process.”
Reed, the former leader of Lambeth Council who has been MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South since 2012, has refused to discuss the Labour leadership situation with CLP members, at their recent CLP annual meeting. But he has made public claims that his resignation from Corbyn’s shadow team and his calls for the leader to resign has the support of his local party.
“Resentment towards Reed’s secretive and underhand behaviour grows by the day. He holds Labour Party members in utter contempt,” was the opinion of the local member.
The Labour Party has placed strict restrictions on local meetings, party officials – most of whom were appointed during the Blair era – claiming it is an attempt to avoid confrontations between the two sides, while supporters of Corbyn suggest it is to prevent them from organising in support of the party leader. Leadership nomination meetings, though, are permitted.
Croydon Central CLP, which came within a whisker of delivering a new Labour MP at last year’s General Election, is holding an all-member nomination meeting tonight. In Tory stronghold Croydon South, the CLP, which is dominated by the Reed-supporting Blairite couple of Andy Bagnall and Jo Milligan, has made no announcement of any intention to stage any such nomination meeting among its members.
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