Officials at Croydon North’s Constituency Labour Party have flip-flopped over a leadership election nomination meeting, and have emailed members this afternoon to announce that an all-member meeting will now take place after all, next Monday. It means that Shirley Hills resident Steve Reed OBE, the constituency’s MP, may have to postpone the packing of his own flip flops for his summer holiday.
“Game on,” said one Croydon North member who had lobbied for any nomination meeting to involve all members, not just a closely controlled cabal.
“I guess Reed must have looked at the results of his SurveyMonkey exercise over the weekend and decided that he has the numbers to win it for Owen Smith… or, as he’s better known round here, ‘Owen Who?’,” another member told Inside Croydon.
“If they’ve only just sent out the notification today by email, I wonder whether they will meet the rule requiring seven days’ notice for those members – and there will be a few – who don’t have email?” another senior Croydon Labour figure asked.
There was outrage among many Labour members last week when the Croydon North CLP tried to arrange a nomination meeting just for delegates to its General Committee – something which was described as a “stitch up”, and seen as an attempt to deliberately exclude ordinary members from the process.
Local party officials were forced to cancel that meeting when it was pointed out to the CLP chair – a staunch Reed supporter – that they had failed to issue the notice of the meeting with the seven days’ notice as required in the rule book.
Reed is the vice-chair of Progress, the Blairite party-within-a-party which has spent much of the past year trying to undermine and subvert the democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Reed himself was one of the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as part of what has been called the #ChickenCoup.
Reed may have been embarrassed a year ago, therefore, when the members of his CLP opted to support Corbyn’s nomination for the leadership. It would be doubly embarrassing if that were to happen again next Monday.
Before the weekend, Reed issued an email to the membership outlining the reasons for his opposition to Corbyn. The email included a response section which some suggested was a means to test the water among the membership over the levels of support for leadership challenger Smith.
In an entirely unscientific poll conducted over the same period among Inside Croydon‘s readers, Owen Smith has been running neck and neck with “undecideds”, with Corbyn getting 75 per cent of the vote.
The Croydon North nomination meeting could be the first time that Reed faces ordinary members in the constituency he is supposed to represent over the leadership issue: he refused to answer questions on the matter at June’s CLP annual meeting and he missed the 2015 nomination meeting when on holiday.
Today’s email was signed off not by the CLP chair, Ann O’Connor, but by the branch secretary, Janet Campbell.
It is not known why, on this occasion, O’Connor’s name is not on the notification letter.
With Labour HQ banning the staging of any other sort of meeting during the leadership contest, which concludes with a one-member, one-vote ballot prior to next month’s party conference, the nomination meetings have been sometimes controversial – with members complaining of being locked out of the Streathham CLP event last week.
Croydon North, sometimes referred to as “Lambeth South” since Reed, the former Lambeth council leader, and a few of his loyal supporters moved in, is the only constituency in this borough which does not have a Conservative MP.
In Croydon’s other constituencies, the story of nomination meetings has been varied.
Croydon South has not announced any date for an all-member nomination meeting, though to comply with party rules requiring seven days’ notice, officials have until August 5 to call a meeting before the August 12 deadline.
Croydon Central staged its all-member nomination meeting last Wednesday, and despite support from a dozen local councillors for Smith, it voted in favour of Corbyn.
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