Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the rather monarchical Christmas message from Our Great Leader
Croydon’s council leader, Tony Newman, has taken to issuing a grandiose Christmas message, to anyone who can be bothered to read it.
Such gestures are usually reserved for the monarch, at 3pm on Christmas Day.
But after almost five years in the role, trousering £50,000-plus per year of public dosh in “special responsibility allowances” for doing… whatever it is that Newman does, Our Great Leader clearly believes that it is incumbent upon him to rally the morale of the council’s ever-diminishing staff. And the Croydon Labour membership.
The message, published on his local party’s website, suggests that Newman has undergone a political transformation. No longer is he seeking the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn, as he did in 2016 when supporting Owen Smith, while his erstwhile political ally, Lambeth South MP Steve Reed OBE, secretly plotted to oust the party’s democratically elected leader.
Newman and Reed have been close political allies for some time – probably since around 2012, when Reed surprised many by being selected as Labour’s candidate for the Croydon North by-election, and inherited among his Westminster staff Louise Szpera, Newman’s partner.
Yet now Newman has used his Christmas message to call for Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour government to be elected as soon as possible.
With the self-proclaimed “borough organiser”, Jack Buck, to help write his scripts and web postings, Newman does not make the mistake of other Blairites of calling for a second Brexit referendum, a sign, surely, that Buck’s political education programme is truly gaining… errr… Momentum.
Newman’s somewhat eccentric writing style still shines through, though, as he describes himself, with his usual overstatement, as “the Labour Leader of London’s greatest borough Croydon”, while signing off, somewhat oddly, as “Labour Leader, London Borough of Croydon Council”.
The message does carry the authentic voice of Our Great Leader, as it is full of his usual bluster, as well as plenty of schoolboy errors.
Newman writes: “Supporting our public services and defending the ideal of public service is fundamental to Labour values and the values of our council. Compare that with the attitude of the Tories both locally and nationally and it shows just how important it is that we have Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour Government elected as soon as possible.
“Lets [sic] never forget this Scrooge like [sic] Tory government have [sic] cut over [sic] 70 per cent of our council’s grant in the last eight years, and continue to underfund the vital services we provide (but they should fund) to even the most vulnerable children in Croydon.”
So clearly, the failures of Croydon Council’s children’s services department, given a damning Ofsted report in 2017, is nothing to do with Newman’s administration, or the cabinet member notionally responsible, Alisa Flemming.
Newman continues, somewhat breathlessly (he must have had another photo op to rush off to): “Alongside this we have the chaos of the Tories [sic] Universal Credit that penalises the most vulnerable as well as ongoing attempt to privatise our precious NHS.
“However, despite the Tories [sic] ongoing austerity we are determined as a Labour Council [sic] to protect our frontline services. We are investing in new facilities for our young people, funding the new Fairfield Halls which is set to open next September and supporting the elderly and vulnerable in our community.”
By the end of his festive address, Our Great Leader is so on message, he even manages to re-type the slogan from Corbyn’s 2017 General Election manifesto: “Just imagine how much more we could do with a Labour Government working alongside us determined to build a country for the many, not the few.”
Newman has not had a good year, by most measures.
While the Momentum wave of Labour support buoyed up the vote throughout most of London, in Croydon Newman and his best mate, Paul Scott, presided over a local elections campaign which saw them effectively lose one council seat to the Conservatives, when they perhaps might have expected to win 45 council seats.
The ongoing problems of the council’s failing children’s services is a drain, the refurbished (not “new”, Tony) Fairfield Halls are more than a year late and at least £10million over-budget, he has failed to deliver any new homes in four years (affordable or otherwise), there’s no sign of Westfield’s £1.4billion supermall any time soon, and senior council staff are jumping ship by the week.
But with a Christmas message as he has just delivered, it surely cannot be long before the massed ranks of Croydon Momentum will be rushing to Newman’s side to support him through the next three years of his council administration, backed by the two dozen or so Labour councillors who all receive generous special responsibility allowances thanks to Newman’s patronage.
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