Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the mounting complaints over the mishandling of candidate selections ahead of Town Hall elections in May
The mismanaged and still incomplete candidate selection process being conducted by Croydon Labour ahead of the local elections on May 3 is now subject to formal complaints to the party hierarchy against three senior figures, with allegations of racism, bullying, abuse of power and defamation.
The complaint has been filed by Dr Tesfa Mehari, the political education officer (yep, they have such a position) in Croydon North Constituency Labour Party. Croydon North is where Steve Reed OBE, the former Progress vice-chair, is the MP.
Mehari has twice been rejected as a potential candidate in South Norwood ward – first, ahead of last year’s by-election when Patsy Cummings was selected, when he was backed by Reed, and then, more recently, when Clive Fraser was selected (together with sitting councillors Cummings and Jane Avis) for the safe Labour ward.
Fraser just also happens to be the chair of the all-powerful Local Campaign Forum, the LCF, the body which has overseen Labour’s bungled selection process across the whole borough.
Mehari has filed his complaint to Neil Fleming, the director of London Region Labour Party.
In an email which has been seen by Inside Croydon, Mehari asks for an urgent investigation into the process which, he alleges, “compromised the integrity of candidate selection”.
Mehari also demanded “immediate action to re-run South Norwood selection meeting”.
They’d need to get a rush on: the deadline for nominating candidates is a month away.
Mehari writes, “My request is based on the fact that there was a well co-ordinated malicious campaign to undermine my candidature.”
Mehari accuses one named Croydon Labour figure of “biased intervention to influence election results by spreading false defamatory information against me and thereby undermining my electoral prospect as Labour Party councillor”.
A reference made to Mehari’s “understanding of British Culture” is, the doctor alleges, evidence of a racist attitude towards him.
Mehari alleges that another party official shouted at his family members when they were campaigning for him last August. Mehari characterises this as bullying, and he says that the party official “is still continuing to undermine me by telling local party members that I broke the rules”.
And Mehari claims that a third party official misused his position to disrupt his selection campaign, accusing him of intimidation “by telephone calls and lengthy emails that threatened me with deselection for breaking the rules, without explaining the rules I broke and identity of my accuser”.
Mehari, meanwhile, claims that Labour Party rules were broken, but by a named party official who allowed non-members to attend a selection meeting, something which “completely undermined my credibility and confidence and thereby affected the outcome of the selection meeting”.
Mehari’s letter of complaint ends by stating, “In all cases I will also present evidence to the investigative panel…” that proves that “…a sustained and well co-ordinated campaign of intimidation… was triggered due to my refusal to withdraw from the councillor selection in favour of a candidate favoured by [a named official] and the Momentum faction”.
Such a complaint is likely to prove a tricky distraction from the local election campaign, particularly for Fraser. As well as being the chair of the LCF, Fraser is also the chair of Croydon North CLP, which is at the centre of Mehari’s allegations.
Inside Croydon contacted Fraser and Jack Buck, the paid employee of the Croydon Labour group on the council who has been responsible for much of the botched “administration” around the candidate selection process. But neither Fraser nor Buck (who is himself a council election candidate for Faraday ward in Southwark) responded to our offer to comment on the allegations being made by Mehari.
It is understood that Mehari’s complaints over the selection process may not be the only file full of acrimonious allegations from Croydon to have crossed Fleming’s desk recently, as the local party “machine” driven by council leader Tony Newman appears to have stalled with the Town Hall elections now less than nine weeks away.
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