Labour members in Croydon North, eventually given the opportunity to attend a nomination meeting over the party’s leadership, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Jeremy Corbyn last night. For the second time in 12 months.
Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South (delete to taste), was not present to witness his candidate, Owen Smith, decisively beaten, by 77 votes to 45, with a single spoiled ballot paper.
Reed, who had uncomplainingly held a job in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for 10 months, was among the Labour MPs who attempted a coup to bring down the leader at the end of June. Reed resigned from the shadow cabinet just a couple of days after attending the Croydon North annual meeting, when he refused to answer members’ questions on the party leadership; in his resignation letter, Reed claimed that he had consulted the members.
And last night’s packed all-member meeting in Thornton Heath nearly did not happen, after Reed’s Progress pals among the Constituency Labour Party’s officers tried to stage a committee-only nomination meeting, perhaps having calculated that by restricting the ballot, Smith might have had a better chance of success. This plan was scuppered, however, when the CLP chair, Ann O’Connor, one of Reed’s supporters, was told she had broken party rules by not arranging the event with the required seven days’ notice.
Even as it was about to begin, the all-member meeting was not without its problems: confusion over the location of the venue – with some claiming that they had been given a misleading postcode for the meeting hall – saw a delayed start.
Reed, a resident of the Shirley Hills, was absent, possibly because, as he lives in a £1million home outside his constituency, he would not have had a vote in the process. Several Croydon councillors attended the meeting, but none were among the seven speakers for each side who were given a quickfire two minutes each to address the meeting, which was so well-attended that many members had to stand.
“The speeches were all broadly positive and conciliatory, with much focus on ‘more in common’ and ‘all Labour’, etcetera,” according to one member who attended.
“The Corbyn support in room was clear from longer, louder applause for each speaker. The result was well-received, with focus on bringing those of different viewpoints together for future campaigning.”
Croydon North thus became the 133rd CLP to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, while challenger Smith has the overt backing of 25 local parties. Croydon Central backed Corbyn a fortnight ago, while the Steve Reed supporters who control Croydon South have decided that their members do not merit any nomination meeting.
Nomination meetings, which have to be staged by this Friday, are something and nothing: a display of support for a candidate, but with no actual impact on the ultimate election outcome, which will be decided by one member, one vote next month.
The vote not only demonstrates how out-of-step Reed is with his CLP, it is also embarrassing for the leadership of the party on the council, headed by Tony Newman and the controlling troika of Alison Butler and her husband, Paul Scott, and Mark Watson, who can barely contain their discomfort at the more radical stance of the Corbyn-led Labour Party.
The Croydon North CLP vote, though, was the third set-back for Reed and his Progress mates in the day.
First, a High Court judge said that, under contract law, you cannot simply take money off people and then change the “offer” in exchange retrospectively, and the court ruled that those in charge of the Labour Party – senior employees who have become embedded during two decades of Blairism – therefore could not block party members who had joined since January this year from having a vote in the leadership election.
And in the afternoon, the results were announced of elections to Labour’s powerful National Executive Committee, with a cleansweep for all six of the candidates from the Corbyn-supporting left, led by Ann Black, who polled more than 100,000 votes. Candidates who have, like Reed, called for Corbyn to resign as leader, were left trailing a long way behind.
Indeed, most of the Blairites were even beaten by a comedian, as Crystal Palace fan Eddie Izzard finished eighth in the poll. Which is, of itself, quite funny.
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