WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the latest attempt by a local political party to fix the outcome of an election process
It is not only the local Tory leadership who manage to use party rules and procedures in their efforts to hand-pick a preferred candidate for elections.
Tony Newman and Croydon Labour this week tried to give an advantage to a particular favourite over the forthcoming Fairfield ward by-election – but Newman and his numpties were foiled by a vote against having an all-woman shortlist for the selection.
The Fairfield by-election has been called for Thursday November 7 following the sudden – and so far unexplained by Newman and his Town Hall clique – resignation of Councillor Niro Sirisena, who claimed to be the founder of the Momentum wing of the local Labour Party.
Sirisena, a sometime employee of Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, resigned as a councillor, and cut all ties with the Labour Party, at the end of last month after what Croydon Labour has described only as “a serious incident”.
Fairfield has three council seats, and Sirisena’s abrupt departure leaves Chris Clark and Mary Croos in post.
Labour has a commitment to improving the gender balance among its candidates and elected representatives so that in multi-seat wards such as Fairfield, the first candidate selected is usually a woman. With Croos already on the council, this would normally see the other positions on the slate selected from across the membership, regardless of gender.
But a motion went to Thursday evening’s Local Campaign Forum meeting seeking to restrict selection to just women candidates.
The Local Campaign Forum is the cross-borough sub-committee which controls Croydon Labour’s funding and campaigns strategy. It is made up of an equal number of delegates from the three constituency Labour parties – Croydon North, Central and South – plus a similar number of delegates from councillors, nominated by Newman. This is usually enough to give Newman the balance of power over all LCF decisions.
The move for an all-woman shortlist is thought to have been put forward by Jack Buck, the full-time party staff member, who is employed by Newman’s Town Hall Labour group.
If passed, it would have immediately ruled out of the running at least half of the borough’s Labour membership and is thought to have been done to favour Caragh Skipper, a close friend of Buck and of ex-councillor Sirisena, whose conduct has created the unwanted by-election at this time.
Newman is said to have supported the proposal.
Newman has appeared more than eager to find a way of getting Skipper on to the council, ever since she managed to lose what was notionally a Labour-held seat in Addiscombe East at the local elections in 2018.
According to sources who attended the LCF meeting, some delegates – perhaps unaware of the manipulation going on by the leadership – voted in good conscience for an all-woman shortlist. But even with the support of Newman, the motion was defeated by seven votes to five. Skipper, if she does decide to seek selection, will now have to be chosen from a full roster of wannabe councillors.
Because of the short time available for the selection process – all nominations have to be submitted by this Friday, October 11 – the LCF also decided that only those members who were approved to be council election candidates ahead of the 2018 local elections can be considered this time round.
Croydon Conservatives (or, to be more accurate, Mario Creatura), have already hand-picked their candidate, 20-year-old Jayde Edwards, and she was out canvassing around Fairfield yesterday accompanied by a large number of enthusiastic friends from the cult-like SPAC Nation church – providing the ageing Croydon Tory membership with an eager new brigade of leaflet-deliverers, just as Creatura had hoped for to help boost his own efforts to be elected as MP for Croydon Central.
Croydon Labour made one further decision last week, and that is to hand £21,000-worth of public-funded allowances (and a regular supply of freebie tickets to the unfinished Fairfield Halls) to civil servant Felicity Flynn.
Flynn takes over as deputy cabinet member for butt plugs and shit shows, replacing the now ex-councillor Sirisena.
Flynn’s rapid promotion – she has only been on the council since May 2018 – has the appearance of Blairite Newman throwing a bone to the local Momentum group to keep them off his back. It certainly worked in buying Sirisena’s devoted and unquestioning support.
Flynn, like Sirisena, is from the Momentum wing of the Labour Party. She owes her council seat in New Addington North at least in part to the party’s gender balance rules: she was the only woman candidate left who put herself forward to stand in the ward, and so had an uncontested selection.
“‘None of the above’ wasn’t an option at the selection meeting,” one party member confided in Inside Croydon on condition of anonymity.
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