EXCLUSIVE: WALTER CRONXITE on the latest recriminations over party selections for the local elections next month
Donald Speakman, a Tory councillor in Purley for the past 16 years, has resigned from the Conservative Party and has started a campaign to stand as an independent in the Town Hall elections on May 3.
In his resignation letter, Speakman launched a withering attack on the local party leadership, accusing them of ageism.
The veteran councillor is also fiercely critical of “totally unrealistic” Conservative manifesto pledges over the Labour council’s Brick by Brick housing developments. A Tory proposal which would effectively guarantee controversial Labour councillor Paul Scott a seat on the planning committee is, according to Speakman, “naivety to the point of stupidity”.
Speakman has told friends that he was aware that the local Tory leadership wanted to get rid of him as a council election candidate months before the selection process. He is particularly critical of Mario Creatura, the Tories’ chief whip at the Town Hall. “Mario’s got a big mouth, he doesn’t realise he speaks so loud,” Speakman has told colleagues.
“But I heard him saying that he wanted to get rid of the ‘deadwood’. And I am not deadwood.”Speakman accuses Tim Pollard, the leader of Croydon Conservatives on the council, of running an undemocratic selection process which has bypassed the ward members. Instead, selections were conducted by a small panel which included Pollard, Creatura and party employee Ian Parker.
Conservative Party rules state that members should be involved in the selection process. “The democratic principle of selection by the membership was simply abandoned,” a Croydon Tory told Inside Croydon.
Speakman interrupted the full council meeting in the Town Hall chamber last week to announce that he would not accept the decision of the Conservatives not to select him.
“I’ve been dropped for living too long,” he said.
“It is ageism and I do not accept it.”
Speakman has become something of an irritant to his party leadership of late, breaking ranks with the position adopted by Pollard by publicly accusing council officials of having lied to elected members over the children’s services crisis, and then by demanding answers from chief executive Jo Negrini over any pay-offs made to Graham Cadle and Karen Sullivan, who have left their council jobs following the Godfather affair.
It has now emerged that Speakman has acquired the required 10 supporter signatures and has registered himself as an independent candidate in the reconfigured Purley and Woodcote ward for the local elections being staged on May 3. Today is the deadline for candidate declarations.
Appealling to the “grey vote” in Purley might be a successful move for Speakman, whose platform is understood will emphasise his consistent opposition to the “Purley Skyscraper”, when other Tory councillors, such as Simon Brew, have on occasions supported the over-development proposal for Purley Cross by the local Baptist church.
Speakman will also use the council election system, in which every ballot paper in Purley and Woodcote ward will allow residents to vote for up to three candidates, to split the Conservative vote. The Tory candidates in the Conservative stronghold are sitting councillors Brew and Badsha Quadir, plus Oni Oviri.
In his resignation letter to Pollard, sent earlier this week, Speakman wrote: “You are well aware of how I rejected your decision not to have Conservative Party Members decide who their ward candidates should be for the 3rd May’s local elections.
“‘Dropped for living too long’ is an appropriate description of your ageist attitude. Ageism in employment, NHS and politics should be condemned by all decent people and especially by politicians.
“I also find your manifesto commitment to reform Brick by Brick totally unrealistic. An organisation that looks to build on children’s play space in Montpellier Road, Purley, should be instantly abolished, not played about with. Offering to make Cllr Paul Scott, Labour, the vice chair of the Planning Committee under a Conservative administration in order to ‘ break the cycle of voting just along party lines’ is naivety to the point of stupidity.
“I therefore cannot continue being associated with you and the other ageists in Croydon Conservative Party.
“‘Those who practice Ageism are diminished. Those who do not are enlightened’
“Please accept my immediate resignation from the Conservative Party.”
It will not be the first time that Speakman, who is 80 years old, has stood for election against the Conservative Party.
In 1966, he was a Labour Party parliamentary candidate in Bromley, having been a long-standing councillor alongside the likes of “Red” Ted Knight and Ken Livingstone on the radical Lambeth Council.
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Another hopeless piece of PR management by No.10 Downing Street PR Specialist Mario Creatura. If only Donald enjoyed taking selfies.