Momentum supporters in Croydon are growing concerned that their leadership has ‘gone native’ to support Blairites. WALTER CRONXITE reports
It is not only Toby Young who has been trying frantically to rewrite his past through mass deletions of his embarrassing social media history.
In Croydon, the chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party would rather people weren’t aware that she has (hopefully jokingly) called for the assassination of the President of the United States.
Caragh Skipper was elected as chair of Croydon Central CLP last summer, while local Labour supporters were still bathing in the warm glow of Sarah Jones’s winning of the seat in the General Election. Jones had been the CLP chair. Skipper replaced the new MP backed by a large number of Momentum supporters with whom she had campaigned long and hard to get Jones elected to Parliament.
But for all the scare-mongering reports in the mainstream media last weekend about Corbyn-supporting Momentum ousting Blairites from positions of influence in the party, in Croydon something different has been happening. Rank-and-file Momentum supporters are beginning to express concerns that Skipper, and other erstwhile leaders of their group, have “gone native” and joined up with the local party’s Blairite leadership.
“Since the summer, Caragh and one or two others seem to have got very close to Tony Newman and his clique on the council,” one disillusioned Momentum member told Inside Croydon.
“Once she got elected as CLP chair and selected as a council candidate, Caragh pretty much announced that she was walking away from Momentum. Her message to members like me was ‘I’m alright, Jack, I’m pulling up the ladder’.
“I bet she’ll want our support when it comes to canvassing in Addiscombe East, though. As far as I am concerned, she can forget it.”
And a Labour councillor said, “It’s fairly clear that Newman is mentoring Skipper. I hate to think how that might turn out.”
It is suggested that Newman, having seen the impact that Momentum’s battalions of activists had in getting Jones elected, realised the dangers which the Corbynistas might present to his own position.
In 2016, when Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was threatened by the Blairite “chicken coup”, Newman had made no secret that he wanted his party leader ousted.
Which makes Corbyn loyalist Skipper’s sudden support for Newman and his cabal of Alison Butler, Paul Scott and the convicted fraudster Mark Watson all the more distasteful for the members of Croydon Momentum.
Skipper’s rise in the local Labour Party has been meteoric.
Last October was her first ever Labour Party Conference, but now, as well as chairing Croydon Central CLP, she sits on the influential Local Campaign Forum – which picks and chooses who can be candidates in the local elections, and where she has voted with the embedded Blairites.
When seeking selection as a council candidate, she did so at the expense of two sitting councillors in Addiscombe East.
“Newman always uses patronage,” said another Town Hall source. “And if he can’t buy your loyalty, he uses threats and intimidation.
“It looks pretty obvious that, in return for her support, Newman promised Skipper selection in a safe ward. The irony is that she believed him, and she’s got Addiscombe East.”
There is also a danger that Skipper’s use of social media and frequent examples of poor judgement might catch up with her political ambitions.
However ill-judged her call may have been for Donald Trump to be shot (posted in November 2016), other comments and conduct closer to home have occurred which some might see as making Skipper an electoral liability.
Fly-posting remains a criminal act, so for a party activist to publish pictures of herself gleefully highlighting stickers that have been illegally slapped on to public property, as Skipper did last year, is sure to be used by local Tories against her and other Labour Party candidates.
“The Tories love to distract from what really matters,” a Labour councillor said.
“And Caragh’s provided them with plenty of material to distract the public with.
“At best, she’s shown herself to be horribly naive. But in her closer ties with Newman and Butler, she’s also demonstrated that she is hugely ambitious. That’s not altogether a good combination of traits to have.”
There is, though, no guarantee that Skipper will be successful in getting elected to the council in May.
Since her selection two months ago, alongside Maddie Henson, for what is largely what used to be known as Ashburton ward, there has been little campaigning activity. A New Year holiday to the Gulf States distracted Skipper, while Henson is pregnant with her second child and reportedly reluctant to do much canvassing.
Skipper also says that she is in training for the London Marathon, so that may take up some of her time between now and April. Having lost Ashburton in 2014, Croydon’s Tories have Ashburton/Addiscombe East as one of their election targets.
Skipper may not be so active on social media any longer.
One personal Twitter account, with some of her less well-judged remarks, has already been abandoned, while her social media activity over the past few days has been far less contentious, mainly focused on discussing the merits of various brands of vegan nail polish.
Which is probably just the sort of thing that Blairite Newman wants from the Corbynista in his pocket.
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