Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the latest calamities to befall the local Labour Party’s efforts to select candidates for next May’s Town Hall elections
Already more than a month behind schedule, Labour’s selection process for candidates to stand for election to the council next year descended into “ructions” and “farce” at one branch meeting at the weekend, while another ward has been accused to trying to “poach” a councillor from a neighbouring district.
West Thornton is a Labour-held ward where the sitting councillors are veteran Bernadette Khan, cabinet member Stuart King and Callton Young. It was supposed to shortlist candidates at its meeting on Saturday.
Nearly 40 members turned up in a small church hall for the meeting, an unusually high number for a branch event. But a dispute over the unwelcome attendance at the meeting of a member of the Local Campaign Forum, or LCF, saw the event abandoned amid “ructions”, according to one observer.
“It was terrible,” said another member. “It was a farce.”
Others have suggested that there are concerns within the branch over the use of councillors’ ward budgets, as well as some wariness among branch officials over how new rules over selecting sitting councillors should be applied.
The meeting ended when Yvonne Green, Labour’s selection procedures secretary for the whole borough, left. It may now have to re-stage shortlisting on November 4 – the date originally set for a selection meeting.
In Broad Green, which had its shortlisting meeting last Thursday, members there managed to include on their shortlist Andrew Pelling, who is a councillor in Waddon ward and had not put himself forward for selection in Broad Green.
Pelling was a councillor for Broad Green in the last century. He took the seat off the Labour Party in 1982 – when he was a Conservative candidate.
Pelling has kept strong links in Broad Green, especially with the Tamil community and business people there.
It appears that he was stuck on to the Broad Green shortlist without being asked because Tamil and other members are unimpressed by the performance of one of their councillors, deputy mayor Mike Selva. Some ward members have even taken to referring to Selva as “the invisible man”.
Selva has not spoken at a single Town Hall meeting since 2014, and even since being honoured with deputy mayor status he has struggled to fulfil his commitments: in the past couple of days, Wayne Trakas-Lawlor, the Mayor of Croydon in 2016, has deputised for the absent deputy mayor at local functions.
Broad Green members have automatically re-selected councillors Stuart Collins and Manju Shahul-Hameed, but Selva must contest the third and remaining nomination in the super safe Labour ward with a shortlist of four other contenders. “That’s if he bothers to show up,” one Labour member said.
It seems likely that there will be just three other contenders, as Pelling is reluctant to have his name considered.
Pelling refuses to talk about the attempted head-hunting by the ward he used to represent, claiming he is prevented from speaking to the media by Labour Party rules.
Other sources suggest that Pelling will definitely not be at the selection meeting this Thursday, with him telling friends this weekend that his loyalty is to Waddon, and that he dislikes councillors moving wards to capture nominations from another sitting councillor.
That will mark a settling down for Pelling, who in a long political career has represented Broad Green, Coulsdon East, Heathfield and Waddon on the council, plus Croydon and Sutton as the London Assembly Member, and Croydon Central in parliament, as well as representing two different parties.
Time will tell though as to whether Pelling has made the right decision to stay loyal to Waddon.
With an election coming up, Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp seems to have discovered that Waddon is actually in his constituency.
Philp and his party activists have been busy holding meetings and canvassing in Waddon, the only ward in Croydon South to have Labour councillors. The Tories must consider that the council’s crisis of failures will see Waddon return to the Conservatives after being captured in 2014 by Labour’s Robert Canning, Joy Prince and Pelling.
While the Tories already have their candidates in place, Labour won’t be nominating its trio in Waddon for another three weeks – provided, of course, there are no further delays, as in West Thornton.
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