KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on the disappearing act performed by one of the local Tories’ former leading lights
Unannounced at the Town Hall, and unmentioned to the people of Selsdon and Ballards ward she was supposed to be representing, Sara Bashford, the sometime deputy leader of the Croydon Tories at the Town Hall, has quit as a councillor.
Bashford quietly handed in her Town Hall pass on November 8, after more than a decade of pocketing generous allowances as an elected councillor.
The only signal of this departure of an elected member of the council is a note on what used to be her contact page on the council website. “Councillor Sara Bashford… Not currently an elected councillor,” it states, apparently oblivious to the imbecilic contradiction therein.
The decision to stand down had been on the cards since September, when the Croydon Conservatives announced that the former teaching assistant had to resign the Tory whip after landing herself a plum Whithall job in the Cabinet Office. At that time, the Tories had led everyone to believe that Bashford would see out her term in office to next May’s local elections, ostensibly as an “independent” councillor.
But that charade has now been quietly dropped, and Bashford – the former constituency office organiser for Gavin Barwell when he was Croydon Central MP – has quit. The timing is significant: being less than six months until the date of the 2018 local elections, there will be no ward by-election to replace Bashford.
There is nothing particularly unlawful about all this (there are good reasons for this course of action to be taken). But it looks a tad on the sneaky side, as senior council officials and Croydon Tories conspire to keep the change all hushed up, to avoid the Conservatives the embarrassment of having to explain to the public they are supposed to be serving why the woman who was one of their three-strong leadership team has suddenly done a bunk.
It means that what is true blue Selsdon and Ballards ward will have lost all three of its current councillors by next year. Bashford has left the retiring veteran Dudley Mead and the de-selected Phil Thomas with six months’ worth of casework to handle on their own.
Bashford’s job in the Cabinet Office – which is suggested was secured for her by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Barwell – is “politically restricted”, meaning that while she is being paid a handsome public salary at tax-payers’ expense, Bashford is not permitted to pursue her political views in her spare time.
Just watch out for her delivering leaflets and canvassing on doorsteps between now and May…
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