WALTER CRONXITE on the latest outbreak of churlishness from a council leader who has under-performed
Tony Newman, following Croydon Labour’s performance at the polls on Thursday, chose to begin their new four-year term in charge of the Town Hall by declaring war on his own party.
Labour won 41 of the 70 council seats available in Thursday’s local elections, gaining three seats in Fairfield ward for the first time, but losing one seat in the re-configured Addiscombe East ward.
At lunchtime on Friday, Newman sat down to write a congratulatory note to all his party’s candidates in the knowledge that while across London Labour had enjoyed a 5 per cent swing in their favour, in Croydon there had been a 0.05 per cent swing to the Conservatives.
Somehow, “Soprano” and his clique of Blairites with a four-year-old election slogan of “Ambitious for Croydon”, had managed to diminish the wave of support seen for his party elsewhere across the country.
But unable, or unwilling, to accept responsibility for the short-comings of his own administration’s first four-year term, Newman has opted to try to pass the buck on to an entire Constituency Labour Party.
In Newman’s email, seen by Inside Croydon, he hailed the “record” 41 council seats (achieved through an attempt at gerrymandering through boundary changes), before issuing what appears to be a threat against Croydon South CLP (CSCLP).
Newman wrote, “With a record 41 Labour councillors elected we are in a powerful position to start work on delivering our manifesto for Croydon, a manifesto as I said in my speech last night for all of Croydon, and a manifesto to both tackle the inequalities that remain in our borough and ensure all have the oppurtunity [sic] to benefit from the economic growth and confidence we see across our town.
“As I know you will all do can we make sure we thank every party member who worked so hard to help deliver this result, a result that is only missing one thing, Caragh.”
This oddly misogynistic comment, referring to a woman candidate as a “thing”, is a reference to Caragh Skipper, the sometime Momentum big cheese who abandoned her positions within the Corbyn-supporting group as soon as she was handed a candidate’s slot in what had been a Labour-held ward.
“Caragh worked tirelessly in her own ward,” according to Newman, “and supported many others in their campaigns as well, and I have no hesitation in saying it is only a question of when, not if she will join us… can I also thank on a personal note those of you, who last night stood up to some vicious personal attacks aimed at myself, and some of you, from the current officers of CSCLP, their constant attempts to undermine our local party and undermine our group working with their friend (and party member) from Inside Croydon is something individualy [sic] and collectively we cannot and will not tolerate for another four years, the Party now has a very clear line on how to deal with such behaviour and we will act.”
Yes, it does seem to be a bit of a rant by someone feeling the pressure.
Officers of Croydon South CLP declined to comment.
A Katharine Street source from north of the borough characterised Newman’s verbal assault as “extraordinary”.
“If Tony wanted to reject criticisms of a chaotic selection process and badly run local campaign, in which he exhibited outright favouritism to certain candidates, then this email simply underpins all of that criticism,” they said.
“Newman spent a lot of time in Addiscombe East and in Shirley North to help his mates to get on the council, and in the end they only won one seat out of five.
“It clearly hasn’t occurred to him that if he and the candidate he has singled out had managed to conduct a better campaign, the results would have been better.”
Another source in the Labour group told Inside Croydon: “I hope we will assess results and under stand how we could have improved our final result.
“Clearly a better appreciation of the situation on the ground would have pointed to drawing back our efforts in Shirley North to shore-up the performance in what became a split ward.
“That said, I’m optimistic: we got over 40 per cent in a local poll for the first time, while the Tories have polled less than 40 per cent in three successive local elections.”
Over the bank holiday, Newman will have been considering the make up of his new cabinet, with sources confirming the Inside Croydon report that Clive Fraser, despite many years in the council wilderness, is to be the group’s chief whip and Oliver Lewis is to take over the vacated culture and sport brief.
Newman will have had to rethink some positions, however: sources suggest that he wanted to insert council newcomer Skipper as deputy for housing under Alison Butler, replacing Butler’s husband, Paul Scott, the chair of the council planning committee who became a figure of loathing and ridicule across the borough.
The plan to promote Skipper immediately was not widely known among the Labour group on the council. Such preferential treatment is unlikely to have been popular among other, hard-working and longer serving members of the council, and of the Labour Party.
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