WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest public arm-wrestle among the Blairites and Corbyn supporters in the party in Croydon
Labour’s selection of a candidate to stand for the council vacancy in South Norwood in a by-election to be staged in the ward on September 7 has deteriorated into a faction fight, with loyalty to party leader Jeremy Corbyn being the litmus test put to members as the key issue.
Today’s meeting at 11am in the church hall of St John’s on Sylvan Hill, in front of South Norwood’s recently much enlarged Labour membership, will provide an early indication about how much the selection of candidates for the borough-wide local elections next May will be about pro-Corbyn Momentum being successful in gaining more influence in the way the local party is run.
Steve Reed OBE, the constituency MP who was a keen member of last year’s “Chicken coup” by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party against Corbyn, appears to have recognised this, and his trusted aide has been overtly campaigning for one of the candidates on the four-strong, all-BAME South Norwood Labour short-list.
John Wentworth, the councillor for Upper Norwood ward, has been helping the efforts of candidate Dr Tesfa Mehari in his canvassing of members for this morning’s selection vote.
Wentworth has been the election agent for Reed, the former vice-chair of right-wing Progress, at the last two General Elections. As well as enjoying watching football in the middle of important Town Hall meetings, Wentworth is also a close associate of council leader Tony Newman.
Wentworth has been busily “on manouvres” because the favourite to win the ward selection race is Patsy Cummings. Cummings worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s office during the General Election campaign in June.
Cummings has tried, and failed, to win selection for a safe Labour coouncil ward in the past; she is widely respected among colleagues throughout the Croydon Labour party as a hard-working campaigner, and she is regarded as a progressive and a moderate. She had a spell as chair of the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party, until she was ousted by a candidate more to the liking of Reed.
This week, Cummings has styled her campaign as being “Your pro-Corbyn candidate” in a video being shared on social media.
A Cummings win today will surely be a warning to Newman and his “Gang of Four” which strictly controls the Labour group at the Town Hall that some of their allies could be at risk of deselection a councillor candidates, to be replaced by other loyal to the national party leader.
During the 2016 leadership campaign prompted by Reed and his fellow plotters, Newman made no secret of his support for Progress-backed Owen Smith. Smith was overwhelmed by support for Corbyn in the ensuing vote of Labour rank and file.
Meanwhile, only three of Labour’s 39 councillors spoke openly of voting for Corbyn in that leadership election – Jane Avis (one of the sitting councillors in South Norwood ward), Karen Jewitt (Thornton Heath) and Andrew Pelling (Waddon).
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