There’s a new rift between groups within Croydon Labour, after one official has handed in notice on the use of an office at Ruskin House, the local party’s headquarters for the last half-century.
Ruskin House, situated in its own grounds on Coombe Road, has been an important centre of Britain’s progressive movements for a century. It is the headquarters of the Communist Party of Britain as well as Croydon’s Labour, Trade Union and Co-operative movements. It operates as a co-operative with shareholders from organisations across the four movements.
The current Ruskin House had previously been the home of an Italian vice-consul and a private prep school. It was bought in 1966 and officially opened in 1967 by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.
But Clive Fraser, as the chair of Labour’s Local Campaign Forum, or LCF, has moved to bring an end to that association with effect from the end of this year.
The only problem is that other members of the LCF – which is supposed to be in charge of organising the party’s campaign activities and funding across all three Croydon constituencies – claim that the matter has not been discussed, never mind agreed.In a letter dated October 31, sent to Roy Aird, the president of Ruskin House (the body which runs the building), Fraser offered two months’ notice on Labour’s tenure of office space in the building.
Fraser wrote: “It is with some reluctance that I write to notify you that the Croydon Labour Party LCF are formally giving advancce notice to vacate the first floor office, as of the end of December 2017.”
Labour pays £5,000 a year for its office rental, but Sarah Jones, recently elected as MP for Croydon Central, is opening a constituency office in Blackhorse Lane in Addiscombe. Someone appears to have decided that they could use the money they pay for offices in Ruskin House to underpin the costs of the new constituency office.
The timing seems odd, given that Ruskin House has been used so extensively by Labour as a base of operations for election campaigning across wards in all three constituencies, yet Fraser wants them to move out with local elections just four months away.
And Inside Croydon has discovered that the matter of moving the borough-wide organiser, Jack Buck, into Sarah Jones’s constituency office has anyway never even been discussed with Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party.
“Clive Fraser has absolutely no authority to send this letter on behalf of the LCF,” Inside Croydon was told. “Although the question of continued occupation of the office has been discussed periodically for years, there has been no recent discussion and certainly no decision.”
Joanne Milligan, the secretary of Croydon South CLP, has circulated a letter to all members of the LCF – including MPs Jones and Steve Reed OBE, plus council leader Tony Newman – in which she states, “The Croydon Labour LCF Executive, of which I am a member, has not made a decision to vacate the office in Ruskin House. As such, the… letter dated 31 October in the name of Clive Fraser is not authorised by or sent on behalf of the LCF.”
A senior figure within the party locally told Inside Croydon, “I don’t think that moving the Labour Party offices from Ruskin House is in any way sinister.
“However, there has always been a misguided element in the Labour Party that believed that Ruskin House was Labour Party property – which it never was – and there are some who bitterly resent sharing a building with the Communist Party or, indeed, sharing with anyone else.
“We shall see how this works out.”
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