Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on how there is one group of Labour members in the borough who are getting themselves organised
Momentum is backing Andrew Pelling to be Labour’s candidate in Croydon South at the next parliamentary election – which, with Boris Johnson about to move into Downing Street while senior Tory ministers are walking out of the government, could be some time very soon.
Momentum is the Labour Party grassroots group which supports the leadership and policies of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and their members in Croydon South conducted a selection process in order to identify a candidate who, according to one source, “will stop the Tories taking the seat for granted”.
Croydon South is a true-blue Conservative parliamentary seat which Chris Philp held in 2017 with a majority of 11,406.
Pelling, of course, is a former Conservative MP himself, having represented Croydon Central from 2005. But after having the Tory whip withdrawn by David Cameron in 2007 over a widely reported incident in which he was never charged by the police and was ultimately vindicated, Pelling lost the seat when standing as an independent in 2010 and soon after joined Labour.
Since 2014, Pelling has been a Croydon councillor for Waddon, the only ward in Croydon South held by Labour.
The Momentum endorsement does not guarantee that Labour will select Pelling as the parliamentary candidate – for a start, the party in London has a knack of declaring all-woman shortlists for constituencies deemed to be unwinnable. But it does make it more likely that support from members loyal to Corbyn will coalesce around one nominee.
Indeed, the choice of Pelling, widely considered to be an adept and experienced political operator, and Corbyn supporter, will give all parts of the political spectrum something to think about.
Certainly, if Momentum can get Pelling nominated in Croydon South it could shake things up in the local Labour Party, where council leader Tony Newman has determinedly kept the former MP, Tory council group leader and London Assembly Member on the back benches, some believe out of fear of his abilities.
Pelling beat two other Labour councillors on the Momentum shortlist in Croydon South, both of whom have benefited from Newman’s patronage.
The other candidates for the endorsement were Hamida Ali, a £45,000 per year council cabinet member and Woodside ward colleague of Newman who is not known for her outspoken support for Corbyn, and Niro Sirisena, “Corbyn’s DJ”, who didn’t turn up for the Momentum interviews.
According to a statement from Momentum Croydon South, “The resolution to support the Waddon ward Labour councillor was unanimous.”
The matter may be discussed at a future meeting of the Blairite-dominated Croydon South Constituency Labour Party, when agreement of local members on a choice of candidate may carry some sway with the party.
In a statement issued by the local Momentum group, Pelling said, “I would like to thank Momentum Labour Party members who attended the meeting and showed their confidence in me by giving me their support.
“There’s still a long way to go in the selection process, but there was a real sense at the meeting that it is time that Labour makes a serious challenge in Croydon South and to do our bit to help bring an end to this disastrous Tory government.
“We now face a situation, just three months away from catastrophically crashing out of the EU with a no-deal Brexit, where just 0.2 per cent of the British population have chosen our next Prime Minister.
“The Tory MP for Croydon South ended up giving his support to Boris Johnson – without once asking the people of Croydon South what they think.
“The people of Croydon South deserve better than that.
“The people of Croydon South deserve to have a say in how this country is run.
“That means holding a General Election to give us the opportunity to elect a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and John McDonnell as Chancellor, to deliver a radical programme of reforms.”
Since becoming a Labour councillor in Waddon, Pelling together with his two Labour colleagues – Joy Prince and Robert Canning – has managed to secure an £80million project in their ward to help to reduce congestion and to provide better pedestrian and cycling provision at the busy Fiveways junction on the A23 at Purley Way.
Pelling and the Waddon team also lobbied Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, for a £17million investment to make the Roman Way dual carriageway more live-able for residents.
And together with residents and local disability rights’ groups, Pelling and the Waddon councillors organised a campaign to oppose plans by the DWP to establish a mobility assessment centre in the New South Quarter, far removed from public transport links. Because of the campaign, the DWP abandoned its plans and is now working with the local councillors to find a more appropriate site for the centre.
“We believe that all parts of Croydon South should hear the radical, positive message of a Corbyn-led Labour Party that offers better prospects for all across the constituency,” said Paul Ainscough of Croydon South Momentum.
“Andrew is part of a strong team of ward councillors in Waddon, he has experience of representing all parts of Croydon South either as an MP, London Assembly Member or councillor, and we believe would be an outstanding candidate to pose a real challenge to the Tories.
“After an interview process and consultative confirmatory follow-up meeting, we are confident that Andrew’s experience and long-established profile in Croydon South gives him the means and desire to make Labour’s case to the voters.
“We hope that there will be a consensus in the party locally to support Andrew when the full selection takes place.”
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