WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, reports that in the latest Croydon game of musical chairs, the music hasn’t stopped yet
Jeet Bains, the subterraneanly low-profile Conservative councillor for Coulsdon West, looks to be the first casualty of the enforced re-selections and reshuffle forced on the local political parties by the ward boundary review ahead of next May’s Town Hall elections.
Croydon Conservatives will next Wednesday announce their full roster of 70 candidates – some A listers, but many more on their own B list – to contest the borough elections in nine months’ time. This puts the local Tories at least a month ahead of Tony Newman’s Croydon Labour Party, who are already well behind their own selection schedule, and have yet to begin the game of musical chairs between councillors scrabbling to get selected for safe wards.
The Boundary Commission’s changes redrafted the borough’s political map from 24 mostly three-councillor wards to 28 wards, 12 of which are to be served by two councillors and one with a single councillor. This has made it inevitable that some sitting councillors will get bumped out of their seats.
But that does not appear to be the case with Bains.
Bains has been a councillor in the ultra-safe Tory ward of Coulsdon West since 2010, where one of his predecessors was someone called Gavin Barwell. Effectively, those six years in office should make him the “senior” councillor in the ward, since he was joined in the Town Hall in 2014 by the oleaginous Mario Creatura and Luke Clancy (who he?).
Under the Boundary Commission changes Coulsdon West will, from May 2018, largely become Coulsdon Town ward. It will still have three reps at the Town Hall. But according to sources in Katharine Street this week, Bains won’t be one of the sitting councillors contesting it.
Bains has been expressing his unhappiness to senior Tory colleagues, having instead been selected for what he appears to consider the less-winnable new ward of Addiscombe East, where the second Conservative candidate is to be Joseph Lee.
Our mole in the lawns outside Tory High Command in Purley tells us that the Conservatives are trying to portray Addiscombe East, which comprises parts of the old Addiscombe and Ashburton wards – both won by Labour in 2014 – as an election target in 2018, and on their controversial “A list”.
“But the selection of Bains sort of undermines that really,” they said.
A spokesperson for Croydon Tories told Inside Croydon, “We got on with the job of selections in August. It’s been a very amicable process, and a very long process, trying to fit round pegs into round holes.”
There has been no news on whether James Thompson, the youthful, first-term Tory councillor for Coulsdon East, will seek re-election. In three and a half years on the council, Thompson seems to have posted more selfies from his foreign holidays than actually attending council meetings. Thompson came close to being forced to stand down as a councillor, under council rules over non-attendance.
His ill-served ward, which has been re-shaped to form what is in future to be known as Old Coulsdon, will have just two councillors. The other incumbents are Margaret Bird and Chris Wright, “or what passes among Croydon Tories for a dynamic duo”, our mole sniggered.
Some revised wards won’t require sitting councillors to seek other seats, since retirements are helping to avoid any unseemly squabbling.
Dudley Mead and Margaret Mead, the Terry and June of Croydon politics, are retiring after a combined 65 years as Croydon councillors, during which time they were constant figures on the Tory front bench, and served as deputy leader (Dudley) and mayor (Margaret).
Their wards, Selsdon and Ballards and Heathfield respectively, have been re-jigged thoroughly and will in future be two-councillor wards to which the Commissioners have given the snappy titles of “Selsdon and Addington Village” and “Selsdon Vale and Forestdale” (“Someone on the Commission had been reading too much Tolkien,” our mole mumbled).
It seems likely that Phil Thomas and Sara Bashford and Jason Cummings and Andy Stranack – three of whom are Tory shadow cabinet members – will get selected again.
The absence from the list of retirees of one Tory veteran did cause surprise for our Katharine Street source.
“You mean Donald Speakman’s standing again?” they said, unable to disguise their shock.
“Surely he should be standing down to do us all a favour, not least Simon Hoar who’s been itching to find a safe seat,” they said, referring to the erstwhile Conservative cabinet member who lost his council status at the 2014 elections.
Also retiring is Fairfield Tory councillor Sue Winborn, who is moving to be closer to her family. The prospects of her two erstwhile Fairfield ward colleagues, however, won’t be known until next week’s Croydon Tories announcement.
The Tories’ current roster of representatives includes senior local figures Vidhi Mohan and Helen Pollard, the wife of Tim Pollard, the leader of the opposition at the Town Hall.
It is not yet known whether Mohan and Helen Pollard will stand and fight for Fairfield – since the “Corbyn Effect” which saw Sarah Jones elected as MP in June very much a Labour target ward in 2018 – or whether either of them might opt for the new, potentially more promising territory of the single-councillor Park Hill and Whitgift ward.
By next Wednesday’s Croydon Tories announcement, the volume will be turned off on at least half of this game of musical chairs.
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