Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on how the ruling party in Croydon is struggling to find candidates for all the borough’s wards
Today marks 60 days until the Town Hall elections on May 3. Yet Croydon Labour still hasn’t managed to get round to selecting candidates to fill all 70 slots across the borough’s 28 wards.
Tony Newman, the leader of the ruling Labour group on Croydon Council, is facing mounting questions about his competency – or lack of it – and the officials he has surrounded himself with, as the local election selection process limps into its ninth month.
The process has been mired in disputes and accusations of chicanery since the start.
Inside Croydon is aware of a number of formal complaints about selection procedures and the conduct of Newman and other officials being filed to the national Labour Party.
There have also been allegations of serious breaches of party rules, while candidates who had been democratically selected by party members have been over-ruled by Newman and his Blairite clique.
But now, there’s signs of growing desperation in a letter circulated to Labour members in Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party in the past fortnight.
“Are you interested in standing as a candidate in a ‘hard to win’ ward?” begins the Labour begging letter.
What ought to be particularly concerning for Newman and any Labour supporters hoping to retain control of the Town Hall on May 3 is that it has been necessary to send such a letter in Croydon Central, the scene of the party’s gain from the Tories at last summer’s General Election, when Sarah Jones defeated sitting MP Gavin “XXX-rated tweets” Barwell.
Now, they can’t find enough members willing or capable of standing for election, even as “paper candidates” in what are usually Conservative-voting areas.
Labour’s selection process for candidates for the local elections began last July, soon after the local government boundary commissioners handed down their re-drawn map of Croydon’s voting areas. The process has been marked by a series of poorly attended short-listing and selection meetings – in at least one ward, no members turned up for a short-listing meeting.
Other meetings had to be cancelled at the last minute or delayed when no one had bothered getting the keys for the meeting room.
Yet when keen branch officials in another, Labour-held ward, tweeted details to their followers of a selection meeting, the moderator of the Croydon Labour Twitter account – which is suggested may be Alison Butler, Newman’s deputy leader – issued a sharp rebuke, ordering the removal of the message encouraging participation in the democratic process because it was deemed to be “inappropriate”.
Now, Labour in Croydon Central is being forced into a last-minute chase-round to find someone – anyone – prepared to put their name forward as a candidate, before the deadline later this month.
The letter, which has been seen by Inside Croydon, asked for responses by February 19.
The letter was issued at the request of the Croydon LCF, the Local Campaign Forum, which is chaired by Clive Fraser, and includes among its members Caragh “Shoot Trump” Skipper, Newman and Alisa Flemming (the council cabinet member who has presided over the children’s services crisis).
The letter was sent by David White, the secretary of Croydon Central CLP, also a LCF member.
It said, “I’m writing this at the request of the Local Campaign Forum, which oversees the selection of Council candidates in Croydon, and its Procedures Secretary, Yvonne Green.
“Are you interested in standing for the Council in one of the wards which hasn’t selected yet? These are principally wards in areas which currently have Tory councillors and which will be very hard for Labour to win.”
The letter specified Shirley South, Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, and Selsdon and Addington Village. The latter two wards straddle the parliamentary constituencies of Croydon Central and Croydon South.
The letter continued: “Our campaigns in these wards are likely to be fairly basic as we will be concentrating resources on Labour-held and target seats. Nevertheless it’s important that we mount a campaign everywhere to give everyone the chance to vote Labour. Also support in these areas will be important when a General Election comes.”
According to one local Labour official, who asked not to be named in case of reprisals by Newman, “There’s nothing unusual about us fielding paper candidates in Tory areas. The Tories are doing the same with novice candidates in the north of the borough.
“But what is both disappointing and somewhat alarming is that this is going on now, so late in the day. It’s all a bit lastminute.com, and is symptomatic of a process which has failed to observe party rules and has been badly organised from the start.”
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