WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest embarrassing set-back for the Croydon clique which yearns for a return to the “good old days” of Tony Bliar
The ordinary members of a Croydon Constituency Labour Party, when given a chance last night to express their support for candidates in the leadership contest, opted for Jeremy Corbyn over Owen Smith, in another snub for the local leadership, including Tony Newman and Sarah Jones.
The meeting, to provide a nomination for the leadership contest, was held by Croydon Central CLP, and was attended by 85 members.
Corbyn won with 49 votes to Smith’s 36 – around one-third of which came from Croydon councillors.
Challenger Smith, who has emerged as a leadership contender only in the past month following Blairite MPs’ failed coup against Corbyn, had the “benefit” of Newman, the council leader, wrapping up the debate by speaking on his behalf, following speeches by his council cabinet colleague Simon Hall and the influential chair of the scrutiny committee, Sean Fitzsimons.
Other councillors attending the meeting and understood to be supporting Smith included Stephen Mann, Maddie Henson, Andrew Rendle, Mark Watson, Paul Scott, Carole Bonner, Stuart Collins and Toni Letts. The CLP chair, Sarah Jones, who came within 165 votes of winning the parliamentary seat in last year’s General Election, is also a Smith supporter.
Many of these local politicians last year backed the Blairite candidate for Labour’s Mayoral choice, Baroness Tessa “Bunga Bunga” Jowell. Despite having the backing of Progress vice-chair Steve Reed OBE – or probably because she had the support of Reed – Jowell suffered a tearful defeat to Sadiq Khan.
On Tuesday this week, Reed and Jones met Smith during a hush-hush visit to Croydon. It must have slipped Jones’s mind to mention the visit in advance to members of her CLP, since none were allowed to approach the leadership contestant to ask him about his candidacy.
Indeed, Jones is beginning to demonstrate an unfortunate capacity for choosing losers: when Corbyn was the overwhelming choice of Labour members for leader last year, Jones gave her support to Liz “4 per cent” Kendall.
Without the in-built majority that the Labour councillors enjoy in Croydon’s Town Hall chamber, their rhetoric at last night’s meeting was not persuasive enough to win people round to support Smith.
Even the help of a Labour Party insider in Smith’s cause failed to help. Martin Angus, who describes himself as a “political adviser to the Labour group at the Local Government Association” also spoke in the hope of bringing down his party leader. But inexplicably, Anus (the “g” is silent) omitted to share with his colleagues at the meeting where he draws his salary cheque each month.
Andrew Fisher, who did declare to the meeting that he is employed by Corbyn as a policy advisor, was among seven speakers on behalf of the leader, none of whom have held elected office in Croydon.
One of them appeared to catch the mood of the meeting when they said, “Jeremy Corbyn has given Labour its soul back.”
The nomination meeting is a kind of muscle flexing, before all members gets to vote for their chosen candidate ahead of the party conference in two months’ time.
After the orchestrated coup against him by Reed and other members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Corbyn today survived an attempt through the courts to prevent him even being on the ballot paper. Judge Mr Justice Foskett dismissed a move to insist that Corbyn needed to have nominations from a set number of MPs by saying, “It is common ground that there is no ‘vacancy’ for Leader because Mr Corbyn has not resigned from his position as Leader.”
Croydon Central may be only one of three CLPs in the borough to hold such a meeting.
In what Reed appears to regard as his personal fiefdom, Croydon North, an ill-advised attempt to exclude the membership from a nomination meeting, in a stitch-up for Smith, had to be abandoned when the CLP officials proved themselves not competent enough to follow the party’s rule requiring seven days’ notice.
And in Croydon South, there’s no news of any such meeting, although it is possible that the CLP’s Reed-supporting officiers might spring an event on the membership with the minimum amount of notice sometime in the next fortnight, before the deadline.
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