Exclusive: Jones is party pick, but Labour hasn’t told anyone

Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the barely noticed announcement of Labour’s General Election candidate for London’s most marginal seat

Sarah Jones has been campaigning for two weeks. Only today has she been named as a candidate

After spending the past fortnight delivering campaign leaflets without a candidate’s name on them, Sarah Jones, who was the Labour candidate in Croydon Central at the 2015 General Election where she lost to Gavin Barwell by just 165 votes, was today “revealed” as the party’s pick for this year’s election on June 8.

The Croydon Central Labour campaign launch was staged at Ruskin House this afternoon, with Jones centre stage alongside at least two others who might have fancied their chances of being candidates for London’s most marginal seat: London Assembly Member and Croydon resident Fiona Twycross and Croydon Council deputy leader Alison Butler, who was was unsuccessful when seeking selection in 2014.

Jones was not chosen by local members this time round, but selected under a somewhat opaque process run by Labour’s National Executive Committee because of the short-notice, snap election called by the unelected Prime Minister, Theresa Mayhem. The delay in making that selection means that Jones is slow out of her blocks, while career politician Barwell has been busy putting his name around the constituency as a “good MP” (yeah, we thought that laughable, too) since Mayhem fired the starter’s gun.

“No one would have thought Anthony Joshua would have had much of a chance of winning the big fight at Wembley on Saturday if he’d stood in the middle of the ring for the first three rounds and allowed Klitschko some free hits,” one local party activist said tonight.

“But that’s what Labour has managed to do with its slow candidate selection process. This is a serious disadvantage.”

As Labour’s vast numbers of new members who signed up since “Corbynmania” in the summer of 2015 have been utterly bypassed in the selection process, questions have been raised about the internal machinations, which appear to have favoured the Blairite Establishment within the party machine – for example, the vacated safe Labour seat of Lewisham West and Penge was handed last week to Ellie Reeves, the wife of John Cryer MP, the chair of the profoundly anti-Corybyn Parliamentary Labour Party. Cosy.

Elsewhere, in a sop to the unions, some to the left of the party have been selected, but often for staunchly Tory areas and apparently unwinnable seats. Croydon activist Chris Clark, a transport union rep, announced on social media over the weekend that he is standing in Sevenoaks, for example.

There’s a growing feeling among some activists that the right wing of the party almost doesn’t want even to try to win the election, so that the blame for any defeat can be piled upon the party leader’s shoulders.

The launch of the Croydon Central Labour election campaign today failed to keep everyone’s rapt attention. Notice Councillor Paul Scott, husband of Alison Butler, on the left of the picture. About the only time the Woodside councillor might be described as ‘on the left’

But as well as conspiracy theory, there’s always the possibility of cock-ups, too.

Jones’s belated announcement was made on the afternoon of a Bank Holiday Monday, generally a quiet news day, and done without the presence of any reporters or photographers from the local media, never mind regional TV or radio. It seems possible that none were informed or invited. Which is a somewhat eccentric approach to ensuring the maximum coverage for your candidate.

Nor did the party’s usual source of official candidate information offer much assistance today: LabourList, the Labour-funded news site, appeared to have taken May Day off.

Party sources suggest that the Croydon Central launch had to be done before Tuesday to allow for a mass leaflet drop following the announcement, the costs of which would otherwise have had to be included in the “short campaign” budget if undertaken after May 2. Which suggests that someone at Labour HQ must have read Gavin Barwell’s campaign memoir.

Even so, the “top secret” nature of today’s “launch” was such that some Croydon Labour councillors – council-funded leaflet deliverers all of them – were left unaware that it was taking place.

Sarah Jones after losing narrowly to Gavin Barwell in May 2015

Jones, as Croydon Central’s previous candidate, was given an option to stand again, although recent polling suggests that she has a tougher task in 2017 than she faced two years ago. A Croydon contemporary of Barwell – they were friends in their teens when they both attended Whitgift Foundation independent schools – Jones returned to her job in public relations after the 2015 election, working for Gatwick Airport. She is understood to have taken leave of absence last Thursday.

At least Croydon Central has a Labour candidate.

Despite rumours circulating about whom the NEC had hand-picked for Croydon South, where Chris Philp had a 17,000 Tory majority in 2015, even by late on May Day no formal announcement had been made about Labour’s candidate there.

The LibDems, though, have been busy, naming its candidates for Croydon North and South (Gill Hickson was picked months ago for Croydon Central).

They are to be John Pindar, previously an unsuccessful Lambeth council candidate, in Croydon North, where Steve Reed OBE, the sometime vice-chair of the Blairite Porgress group, holds an impregnable majority, and Anna Jones in Croydon South.

A screenshot of the LibDems’ candidate pages for Croydon North and Central draws a blank

It is not known whether the selection of Hickson in Central is a LibDem attempt at the “progressive alliance”, to signal all its party’s loyal supporters in the constituency to vote for Labour in an effort to unseat the Tory. Even unwittingly, some observers who witnessed Hickson’s performance in 2015 suggest it may well work in such a manner.

Anna Jones will be wanting to improve on her party’s candidate’s Croydon South campaign from two years ago, where the LibDems lost their deposit as they fell back to fourth behind Labour and UKIP.

Beyond the candidate’s names, the FibDem party machinery so far can provide no further information to persuade people to vote for them, beyond a blank page that offers the single word: “test”.

Profound, or what?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2017 General Election, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell, Gill Hickson, Sarah Jones MP, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Exclusive: Jones is party pick, but Labour hasn’t told anyone

  1. RJ Newman says:

    I should think that Chris Clark is standing in Sevenoaks for exactly the same reason that Sarah Jones is standing in Croydon Central: He was the candidate there in 2015. Nothing to do with left/right or Corbynite/Blairite.

    I wouldn’t put the current situation down to conspiracy or cock-up. It is simply doing the best we can in a difficult situation with very little time

    • The party leader told Conference six months before the election was called to prepare for it. Why were no candidates already in place by March?

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