The Norbury and Pollards Hill council by-election will be staged on March 14, but there has already been some manoeuvring over candidate selection by Labour, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
As was entirely predictable, Caragh Skipper, Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman’s favourite losing election candidate, is one of five shortlisted for selection to be the party’s candidate in Norbury and Pollards Hill ward.
A by-election has been called following the death last month of long-standing Labour councillor Maggie Mansell. Polling day will be March 14, with all candidate nominations to be submitted to Croydon Council’s chief exec (and returning officer) Jo Negrini by next Friday.
Labour’s selection meeting will be held next Thursday evening, on Valentines night. It might not be all love and peace between the hopeful candidates, though.
Having opted to have an all-woman shortlist, as is required to replace a woman councillor, this week’s branch meeting on Thursday decided on an unusually long shortlist to go forward to ward members next week, which seems likely to pitch Blairites against Corbyn supporters, with some candidates receiving support from some unexpected quarters.
As well as Momentum activist Skipper – who stood in Addiscombe East last May, and managed to lose a Labour-held seat to the Tories – on the shortlist for Norbury and Pollards Hill there are two officers of the Croydon North Constituency Party in Catherine Wilson (the CLP chair) and Leila Ben-Hassel (CLP vice-chair), plus ward resident Enid Molyneux, and Eunice O’Dame (one of the underwhelming candidates who stood in Shirley North ward in May 2018).
Norbury and Pollards Hill is staunchly Labour-supporting, and whoever gets selected next Thursday can expect to be a councillor for as long as they like.
Not allowed even to be considered for the shortlist, though, is Rowenna Davis, a former Southwark councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate, now teaching English at Harris Invictus in Croydon town centre and who has recently moved into the borough.
The author of Tangled Up In Blue, a book about the Blue Labour movement, Oxford-educated Davis is known to have strong connections with the Milibands. While she did apply for consideration for selection in Norbury and Pollards Hill, she was ruled out by the Local Campaign Forum – which is dominated by Newman appointees – on the grounds that she has only lived in Croydon for seven months.
“The rules say you need to be based in the borough for 12 months,” a Katharine Street source confided, “though the LCF does have discretion to waive that if they want to. For some reason, on this occasion, they didn’t want to.”
A Croydon Labour Party source told Inside Croydon tonight, “Tony Newman and Sarah Jones…”, the Croydon Central MP, “both want Caragh. Not sure that Steve Reed will, though.”
Steve Reed OBE is the Progress MP for Croydon North. Norbury and Pollards Hill is in his constituency.
Newman and Reed usually work closely together, and mostly share a Blairite outlook on their politics. Yet the Croydon council leader has provided an unusually high level of support for the Corbyn-supporting Skipper, who enjoyed a meteoric rise in her local party, but quickly resigned as chair of Croydon Central CLP once she had secured selection for what had been seen as a safe Labour ward in Addiscombe East.
So confident was he of the outcome last May that Newman had Skipper lined up for a deputy cabinet job – backing up Alison Butler on housing – until the votes were counted.
As far as selection in Norbury goes, as Croydon North CLP officers, Wilson and Ben-Hassel may have an in-built advantage, in that may already know many of the members in the ward and so get their canvassing off to a flying start this weekend.
According to a source within Croydon Momentum, no decision has yet been made on whether to support a particular candidate.
But our more centrist observer said, “It will be interesting to see who comes through on the basis of who their backers are.”
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