Even before the Fairfield ward council by-election date was announced, Croydon Tories had selected their candidate – though not through any process as crassly democratic as allowing the local Conservative members a vote.
Jayde Edwards, a young mum who is active in the SPAC Nation church, was virtually hand-picked to stand in the town centre ward where a by-election has been called following the sudden resignation of sitting Labour councillor Niro Sirisena, following what his local party described as a “serious incident”.
The by-election, it was announced yesterday, will be held on Thursday November 7, with all the paperwork required for candidates needing to be submitted to the Town Hall a week today, October 11.
Earlier this week, Edwards had been front and centre for a carefully stage-managed photo-op at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, where she was used to provide a more diverse look to the front row of the audience, as she was seated, all-so-conveniently, just in camera shot with the Tories’ racist leader, Boris Johnson.
Sitting one row away and grinning from ear to ear was the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, Mario Creatura.
“Who would have thought living in Croydon and having a baby at 15 I would be sitting on the same row as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” Edwards gushed on Twitter, clearly overcome by her rapid elevation into such low company.
Not so long ago, Creatura was a loyal staffer working in Downing Street as Theresa May’s Twitter account manager, backing her deal for Brexit with the EU.
Yet in the batting of an eye-lid, Creatura has transformed himself into a committed Johnson-phile, calling for a no-deal Brexit.
It is understood that Creatura was instrumental in providing Edwards with her prominent seat for the TV cameras in Manchester.
The glaringly obviously staged photo-op in Manchester reminded Inside Croydon’s loyal reader of a previous occasion when Creatura and Johnson were snapped together, grinning at the misfortunes of others.
They laughed as they stepped over a homeless man in one of Croydon’s pedestrian subways on a flying visit to the borough during Johnson’s mayoralty – a period when the number of people sleeping on the capital’s streets soared.
The council by-election in Fairfield ward, in the heart of the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency, must be seen by Creatura as a key test of his chances of winning back the parliamentary seat which his former boss, “Lord” Gavin “How To Lose A Marginal Seat” Barwell, held until 2017.
Edwards is to stage her “campaign launch” in the town centre tomorrow morning, when she might be expected to be joined by a large number of fellow church goers to SPAC Nation.
She may need to work on coming up with a snappier campaign slogan, too: “I’ll continue to stand for what I believe in which is prosperity for all young people.”
Aged 20, Edwards said today, “I may not have the stereotypical background of a typical Conservative candidate but I believe that aspiration, hard work and personal responsibility are the values that drive real change and personal transformation.
“As children, we are not responsible for our circumstances; but as adults, it is our job to fix them.”
Croydon Tories have been very busy in the past 18 months or so, encouraging members of the SPAC Nation church to join their party, and Edwards’ selection is seen as an attempt by those – including Creatura and his fellow councillor, Jason Cummings, another former Downing Street aide – to set an example to annex the evangelical zeal of that church in local campaigns and canvassing.
But longer-established Tory members are sceptical about the manner in which this is being done, with some describing Wednesday night’s candidate selection process as “a fix”.
Indeed, Edwards’ presence in Manchester, in close proximity to the party leader, all arranged by Creatura, points to her selection being pre-determined by Croydon Tories’ inner circle.
A senior local Tory told Inside Croydon, “The candidate was chosen by a lovely little clique who got what they wanted.”
They said, “Jayde is a name familiar to members locally, not for her campaign efforts but more for Mario’s relentless efforts to cultivate links with SPAC Nation, where she seems to have some prominence.
“Many in the party will see her selection more as trying to curry favour there than as an actual challenger in the election – given the little canvassing she’s actually done previously, and the better, more experienced candidates who were overlooked.”
Sources suggest that there was a very short shortlist of candidates for selection and that these went through a brief process of short – not much longer than 15 minutes, if that – interviews with the selection panel. This panel was made up of members appointed by the Croydon Conservative Federation executive. There was no vote for the ordinary members.
“The party rules allow it for by-elections,” the source said. “As always, there is a choice of how to conduct the selection. But Croydon Conservatives favour central control.
“Members of much longer standing, who have proved their commitment and stood in 2018 were overlooked, despite all the extensive effort they put in.”
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