It is probably fair to say that Steve Reed OBE, an erstwhile leading light in the Progress party-within-a-party, was not holding his breath waiting for a phone call from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to offer him another job in his latest shadow cabinet re-shuffle.
The MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South (delete to distaste) probably has more chance of getting a call from Channel 4 asking him to help out Paul Hollywood on their somewhat denuded Great British Bake Off.
Reed was part of the failed “chicken coup” by the Parliamentary Labour Party to oust the leader, with the end result that Corbyn was re-elected with a bigger mandate than in 2015. “As plotters, they’re fucking useless,” as shadow chancellor John McDonnell put it so succinctly.
But meanwhile, at a more mundane level, there’s a re-shuffle of sorts going on at local level in Croydon’s Labour Party.
First, Catriona Ogilvy, who little more than a year ago was Reed’s placewoman as chair of Croydon North Constituency Labour Party, showed her devotion to the principle of democracy when she announced in a huff on social media that she was leaving Labour, following Corbyn’s election win.
It is a steep demise for someone who, when she arrived from Lambeth a couple of years ago, was soon after short-listed for selection by Labour to contest the Croydon Central constituency. Maybe Ogilvy’s endorsement from a far-right “anti-sharia” campaigner was not such a great idea.
And in the Addiscombe ward, Jane Shaw, the branch secretary, has quit the party, apparently also after taking offence at the outcome of the leadership ballot.
Addiscombe ward is served by three councillors, including Mark Watson, the Lebanon Road resident who is part of Tony Newman’s council clique which controls much of what passes for “policy” at the Town Hall.
A meeting of the Addiscombe branch this week saw Hannah Lockett elected as Shaw’s replacement for the key role of secretary. Lockett appears to be more in step with the grassroots membership, as she spoke in favour of Corbyn at the Croydon Central CLP in the summer which nominated the Islington MP for the leadership.
It was that same meeting which has become notorious for having the word “Blairite” banned, along with various other terms of abuse, in the spirit of a more “comradely” conduct. The underlining tensions between the right-wingers and those who espouse real alternatives to the Tories persist: at Wednesday’s meeting, one councillor attending was reproached when they made offensive remarks over the nomination of David White to continue as the CLP’s secretary.
White spent nearly three months on suspension from the party, without ever being advised the charges against him, only to be reinstated without explanation or apology, and is one of a number of Corbyn supporters in Croydon who have been subjected to a purge by right-wingers.
There is due to be a batch of ward annual meetings ahead of Croydon Central CLP AGM at the end of the month, with party members allowed to meet again after a hiatus during the leadership contest. For Labour in Croydon, the local administrators have to adapt quickly to how to engage with their rapidly expanded membership.
Croydon North and Croydon Central CLPs between them have approaching 2,000 members now; the Croydon-wide Tory Party, which includes a third, Croydon South constituency, has fewer than 900 members. And according to Tory MP Gavin Barwell’s handbook on how to almost lose a safe seat, activating those members as boots on the ground can be all important in election campaigns.
And what “campaigning” has the snubbed plotter, Reed, the poster boy for Progress, been up to lately?
Not much, it seems. An appearance at a conference fringe meeting for Labour First – another front organisation for extreme Blairites – has been followed by proposing one of his old mates from Lambeth Council for a local government magazine award. That, and a couple of appearances at charity events, and retweet from the Torygraph about GBBO.
It might take more than that for Reed to hang on to his seat if, as seems likely, MPs in safe Labour constituencies who thought they had a job for life will have to endure the stress of re-selection. Because as any Bake Off fan knows, you can’t have your cake and eat it.
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