WALTER CRONXITE reports on a week of surprises and disappointments (for some) as Croydon Labour’s candidate selection process limps on
Tony Newman and Paul Scott, half of the Town Hall “Gang of Four” who have an iron grip on the Labour group which supposedly runs the council, have been given a free pass by party members in their ward for a selection meeting next week.
Together with cabinet member Hamida Ali, Newman, the council leader, and his holiday-going mate Scott, the controversial chair of the council’s planning committee, were automatically selected by a short-listing meeting in Woodside ward on Thursday evening.
By doing this, the Labour branch has blocked any possible challenges from other party members at the selection meeting.
The three sitting councillors now just have to turn up, regurgitate a couple minutes of platitudes about their achievements, and wait for the branch members to ratify their selection.
Woodside is the first Labour-held ward to automatically re-select en bloc all its sitting councillors as candidates ahead of next May’s local elections.
And this despite Scott being subject of an on-going formal complaint to the Labour Party’s national officials over his conduct.
In neighbouring South Norwood ward, which has its selection meeting tomorrow, the two sitting councillors – Jane Avis and Patsy Cummings, or the “Corbynista sisters” as they have been nicknamed – have been automatically selected, while the vacancy left by Wayne Trakas Lawlor’s decision not to seek re-selection is to be contested by five eager candidates.
These are headed by Clive Fraser, a past councillor for South Norwood ward and local resident, who – fortunately for him – just happens to be the chair of the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party as well as the LCF, or Local Campaign Forum, the supposedly neutral body which is overseeing the selection process.
He is up against Tesfa Mehari, Andrew Rendle, the de-selected Ashburton councillor who is eager to find another safe Labour ward to contest, Catherine Wilson and Chris Clark.
If Clark is voted on by members, it will represent something of a reunion with Councillor Cummings, since the pair worked together in Jeremy Corbyn’s office during the General Election campaign in the summer, Clark as trades union liaison.
Clark was on the national executive of the transport union, the TSSA, until earlier this year, and has been prominent in campaigns to renationalise the railways.
One surprise was the inclusion on the shortlist of Steven Downes, the editor of this website. But yesterday, Downes announced to South Norwood members that he was withdrawing from the process.
“In 2014, I helped to draft and edit the Croydon Labour Party’s manifesto before the council elections. That manifesto included the words ‘ambitious’ or ‘ambition’ 28 times in its 30 pages. I do not recall the word ‘continuity’ being deployed once,” Downes wrote.
“Sadly, though, in too many respects, after eight years under the Tories, that is what has happened in the past four years of our party’s management of Croydon Town Hall.”
“That ‘continuity’ has seen the £150million squandered on the council’s offices by the Tories allowed to pass, uninvestigated; it has allowed a Tory-backed, polluting incinerator to be built on our borough’s boundaries, without any challenge; and it is now transferring millions of pounds’ worth of public property into private hands through an unaccountable development company, Brick by Brick, which is paying tens of thousands of pounds to its directors while preparing to flog off nearly 600 homes on the housing market, and has yet to deliver a single council house for the residents of Croydon.”
As a consequence of such criticism of some aspects of the Labour administration at Croydon Town Hall, Downes said, “I have become the subject of a personal whispering campaign and outright threats from some of senior members of the local Labour Party. Elected Labour councillors have been ordered not to speak to me.”
Thornton Heath has selected its three candidates for next May’s local elections, with councillors Karen Jewitt and Pat Clouder duly being re-selected and the vacancy created by the suspension last year of Matthew Kyeremeh being taken by Callton Young. Yes, the same Callton Young who is currently councillor in West Thornton.
Young, the former senior civil servant and community activist, might have been re-selected in West Thornton had its selection process not been thrown into disarray by the procedures secretary, Yvonne Green, and is now subject to formal complaints and investigation.
“West Thornton’s loss is our gain,” one delighted Thornton Heath member told Inside Croydon.
“Pat and Karen have soldiered on under difficult circumstances, with large amounts of casework since Kyeremeh was kicked out of the party. Callton will be a welcome addition to the Thornton Heath team.”
The anticipated challenge of the wave of Corbyn-supporting new Momentum members for selection has not really materialised – or has been blocked, if Woodside is anything to go by.
But that position could change in Fairfield. Currently held by the Conservatives, none of their councillors are contesting that ward next May, probably convinced that the ward is there for the taking by Labour.
With the Tory-voting Park Hill area spun off into a separate voting district, and with the sort of demographic changes which saw Sarah Jones elected to Westminster in June’s General Election, the ward could see two or three Corbyn-supporting Labour councillors selected.
The shortlist includes Clark, David White, the veteran secretary of Croydon Central CLP, Jose Joseph, a popular Surrey Street market trader and Momentum member, Felicity Finn, and Steve Reed OBE-supporting Mary Croos. At least one of the selections must be a woman.
It is understood that at least two current Labour councillors had also submitted themselves for short-listing in Fairfield, but were passed over.
Fairfield’s Labour candidate selection meeting will be on Wednesday.
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