Labour Party members in Sutton and Croydon will get to choose the candidate to represent their party in next May’s London Assembly elections after all, with both Patsy Cummings and Rowenna Davis receiving more than the required five nominations from constituency parties and affiliated groups by last Friday’s deadline.
Cummings, the councillor for South Norwood who has the backing of Momentum and Tony Newman, the Blairite leader of Croydon council, had been expected to be the sole candidate when it comes to selecting who will challenge the Tories’ Neil “Father Jack” Garratt for the Croydon and Sutton superconstituency in the 2020 Assembly elections.
Cummings got nominations from all but one of the Constituency Labour Parties – CLPs – in the two boroughs, as well as backing from trades unions and other affiliated groups.
But Blue Labour’s Davis just scraped together the required nominations ahead of Friday’s deadline, to the surprise of some Labour Party officials and the likely annoyance of Newman and some of Cummings’ supporters, who were expecting – wanting? – there to be more of a coronation than an election.
In fact, because of the somewhat arcane system of nominations that allows “affiliated groups” to provide their backing to candidates, Davis in the end got endorsements from seven groups, including her home CLP of Croydon South.
Such was Davis’s own surprise at this success, that the secondary school teacher made a rather breathless little video for social media, recorded in something of a rush, it appears, at the foot of a railway station staircase.
“Guys, I had to stop and make this video on my way out, because what a week it has been,” Davis gushed.
“On Wednesday, we only has three of the five nominations that we needed to get into the next round of the GLA race and all of my kids came back to school… I had to prioritise them, we had no time to do any extra work and I really thought that we might be out.
“And then, suddenly, in the last 24 hours, four more nominations came in for us.
“So thank you so much. Thank you to Croydon South. Thank you to Community. Thank you to the Labour Campaign for International Development. Thank you to USDAW. Thank you to Unison. Thank you to the Jewish Labour Movement. Thank you to the Labour Party Irish Society.
“Because you have given me a chance and members a choice, and I am so excited and I cannot wait to work with you all.”
Davis’s presence on the ballot paper to go to Labour members might be a surprise, though Cummings remains a firm favourite to win the selection to be the candidate in a seat that Labour has never won in the 20-year history of the Greater London Assembly, but where its chances of success have been improving.
Davis was a late starter in the race for selection, only entering when Croydon councillor Jamie Audsley was forced out when the party determined that Croydon and Sutton should be an all-woman shortlist, to Cummings’ obvious advantage.
Indeed, such was the confidence around the Cummings campaign that she would definitely be selected, they have been distributing glossy leaflets – funded by one of her union backers – and updating her social media presence to make it appear, to the unsuspecting, that she has been selected already as the Assembly candidate.
Cummings misses no opportunity to highlight that she worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s office in 2017. She is a former parliamentary aide to MP Dawn Butler and has conspicuous backing from Croydon’s Momentum councillors, as well as the Town Hall leadership, though this has manifested itself in a sometimes snide and petty manner on occasions.
Cummings has even been seen publicly haranguing party members who have failed to pledge undying allegiance to her cause.
“Others in the party had written Rowenna’s candidacy off and had taken to mocking her,” one of her supporters said. “She has shown resilience and has bounced back impressively.”
The odds do, however, seem stacked in Cummings’s favour.
At votes held last week, Cummings won the nomination of the Co-op Party (by 10 to 6) and Croydon Central CLP (32-18).
The results across all five CLPs were:
- Sutton ‘n Cheam 15-8
- Carshalton ‘n Wallington 24-2
- Croydon North 28-13
- Croydon Central 32-18
- Croydon South 18-35
- Overall: 117-76 or 61 per cent to 39 per cent.
Cummings is understood to have attracted more than 10 nominations, including from some of the big unions such as Unite, the GMB, TSSA and CWU.
Davis, who has strong links with the Milibands, has previously been a Labour parliamentary candidate and some assumed that her London Assembly campaign was merely a piece of strategic positioning, to raise her profile locally ahead of her seeking selection to stand in Croydon South at the forthcoming General Election. But Davis has assured friends that she has not put herself forward for parliamentary selection.
A Labour Party official told Inside Croydon, “Patsy had a much bigger ground game with a volunteer organisation across all five CLPs and focused on the practical work of winning nominations, while Rowenna only really had a ground operation in two CLPs and mainly focused on some summer profile raising with some pleasant campaigns that did not win her any extra votes but probably kept her supporters (inherited from Jamie) occupied.
“If the GLA selection does go to a one-member-one-vote ballot, based on what we know from national OMOV elections, in Sutton the non-active Labour members will be very slightly to the right of activists, while in Croydon the non-active members will be a bit to the left of their activists. When you take all this into account, it is likely in an OMOV Patsy would win around 65 per cent to Rowenna’s 35 per cent.
“In the end, I think any candidate would prefer to have most CLPs and most big unions at this point. Four of Rowenna’s nominations are very small and were mainly secured through bureaucratic stitch-ups, not votes.” There were some dark grumblings about belated assistance from former Progress vice-chair, Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, in securing some of the affiliated organisations’ support for Davis.
“I would imagine that the team talk at Team Patsy at present is similar to Alf Ramsey just before extra-time in the 1966 World Cup final: ‘You’ve won it once, now go out there and win it again’.”
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