Croydon is poorly served by many of its local politicians. A quick review of the most-read stories on Inside Croydon in 2016 shows that our loyal reader has been an avid consumer of some of their least attractive behaviour
The internecine warfare in the Labour Party, as recidivist Blairites continued to ignore the democratic wishes of their fellow party members, stirred up a good deal of interest over the summer.
As Jeremy Corbyn faced a second leadership context inside 12 months, Lambeth South/Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE, the sometime deputy chair of Progress, the right-wingers’ party-within-a-party, played his part in the coup to unseat the leader.
This Inside Croydon story was interesting, because once the move was publicised, Reed and his supporters were forced to abandon their effort to subvert the process.
With good cause, outrage over the deteriorating “services” provided by Southern has featured strongly in our readers’ interests throughout 2016. The news in this report confirmed what many suspected, and is nothing short of a scandal: the Department for Transport being actively engaged in pursuing a political objective by deliberately undermining the commuter rail service.
According to Croydon’s Tory MPs, it’s all the unions’ fault.
November 9 was a tragic date in Croydon’s history, when seven people were killed and 50 others injured in the Sandilands tram derailment.
Yet in the midst of the unfolding tragedy, one two-bob sometime politician through it somehow right and proper to start bandying around abuse and insults on social media about Croydon and the trams, generating widespread disgust and revulsion.
Talking of nine-carat politicians, The Hon Emily Benn lasted less than two years in her first elected office, as a councillor for West Thornton ward (apparently she represented the Labour Party, though it was sometimes hard to tell), before announcing in March that she was to pursue her career in New York with UBS.
Benn is the niece of the anti-Corbyn plotter Hilary Benn and daughter of Viscountess Stansgate, a former adviser to Tony Bliar and, more recently, a member of the court of governors of the Whitgift Foundation – which operates three private schools, where annual fees now can be as much as £35,500.
So it is no surprise that the part-time politician, full-time banker departed with an ill-judged and snide remark comparing the Corbyn-led Labour Party to the Taliban.
With Croydon so well served with several excellent specialist Palace websites, Inside Croydon‘s forays into football are few and far between.
This story from August, with the news of record signing Christian Benteke together with Loic Remy, drew huge numbers of readers.
Given last week’s sacking of manager Alan Pardew, the £35million joint price tag for one striker who has barely been fit to play since and another who has hardly been banging in the goals, all goes to prove one thing: no amount of money can guarantee Premier League success.
Following the suspension of Corbyn aide and Croydon resident Andrew Fisher previously – after a complaint about him from none other than The Hon Emily Benn – tensions inside the local Labour parties continued to rise when David White, the long-time secretary of the Croydon Central CLP was summarily suspended, without a hearing, when he got dragged into the latest Ken Livingstone controversy.
White, a former GLC colleague of Livingstone, made the unforgivable error of expressing his support via social media, and providing an explanation for his followers. Such conduct seems not to be tolerated by the Blairites who control the Labour machinery, and this key operator was out on his ear.
It was hardly an incident in which Labour covered itself in any credit. Inside Croydon did its (small) bit to draw attention to the case – and other suspensions among Croydon members – and eventually White was reinstated and restored to his position. Without any explanation, and no apology.
Planning stories always attract decent traffic, and maybe the absence of any insightful local coverage for that bit of Surrey immediately south of Croydon means that the people of Tandridge turned to Inside Croydon as their only source of alternative information on this significant development, which could include thousands of homes on a well-known golf course. Certainly, Tandridge District Council was “grateful” for the coverage (see comments) of its consultation, which in time-honoured local authority style, had barely been noticed until this report appeared.
Filed under “you couldn’t make it up” (though we were accused by several Blairites of having done so), the distrust within Labour by mid-summer had reached such a point that officials – most of whom owed their position to the old regime – were issuing instructions to Constituency Labour Parties with entire lists of proscribed words to avoid “abuse”.
And included on the list read out to a Croydon Central CLP meeting was the word “Blarite”.
Which makes it, officially, a term of abuse. Like “Tory”. Or “twat”.
One of the nasty episodes over the summer occurred when the aforementioned Blairite and Progress figure, Steve Reed OBE, contacted the Borough Commander and had the police “pay a visit” to a Croydon North Labour member who – shock! horror! – had had the audacity to ask their elected representative a series of direct, pointed questions about his position on a range of issues, including those which reflected on his own loyalty to the party leadership.
“Make no mistake, GTR are coming after their own staff like the KGB and Stasi.”
Back in June, at a time when Govia Thameslink was imposing a “special”, reduced trimetable because of the management’s inability to… well, manage, and actually deliver the service it is contracted to provide, and we found this account from a Southern train driver which laid bare the realities of working for a rail operator whose principle aim was less to serve the travelling public, and more to implement political party policy.
Since then, more than 20,000 people have seen it (and, we hope, read it), as others have turned to it with each demoralising twist in the rail dispute the Tories have no interest in resolving.
Back in June, Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South, was still loudly demanding that Southern should be stripped of the “franchise” (strictly, it is not a franchise; but we know what he means).
Six months on, and the rhetoric of our local Tory MPs has shifted, so that they are making sure that they smear the rail unions for their part in the “dispute” – which could be seen as properly defending the interests of their members, while also questioning many safety aspects of the Trojan horse Driver Operated Only policy. Philp and his colleague, gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell, have been careful meanwhile to defend the transport minister, Chris Grayling, when he has refused to hand over Southern’s routes to Transport for London simply on the politically expedient grounds that he doesn’t want the services “in the hands of a Labour Mayor”. Thus the Tories have put their party advantage ahead of the interests of hundreds of thousands of suffering rail travellers.
Which means the commuters of Croydon, Norwood, Purley and Coulsdon go into 2017 facing yet more rail disruption and uncertainty.
Happy new year, one and all, courtesy of Croydon’s self-serving politicians.
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