The pressure on Tony Newman as leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council continues to mount, as one of Croydon’s three constituency Labour parties will this week consider a motion that “deplores the behaviour of the council leadership” over the handling of the Fairfield ward council by-election.
Croydon South Constituency Labour Party has a motion before its meeting on Tuesday which refuses to endorse the party’s candidate for next month’s Fairfield by-election and calls on its members to boycott campaigning in that ward.
As exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon, Surrey Street stall-holder Jose Joseph was chosen by party members 10 days ago, but dropped as the candidate the following morning in a move described by some Labour members as “a coup by the leadership against the members”. Caragh Skipper, a favourite of Newman and good friend of election agent Jack Buck, was nominated as Labour’s candidate for the November 7 by-election instead.
The by-election has been called following the sudden resignation as a councillor of Niro Sirisena.
Sirisena, who was elected as a councillor only in May 2018, quit after what Croydon Labour described as “a serious incident”, and which Newman this week admitted was a matter under police investigation.
Newman, whose council professes to support the white ribbon campaign against domestic violence, has failed to offer a full explanation for the circumstances behind the resignation of Sirisena, whom Newman had promoted to deputy cabinet member status at the council.
The anger and disgust at the handling of the selection process will be discussed on Tuesday at the regular meeting of the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party, with a motion that accuses the local party leadership of “besmirching” the reputation of Joseph.
Croydon South is the one CLP in the borough which does not have a Labour MP and covers an area in which only a single ward has Labour councillors. But it was the winning of Waddon ward in 2014 which effectively secured control of the council for Labour, and Newman.
The motion being put before members on Tuesday is uncompromising in its condemnation of the leadership, and of the officers of the all-powerful Local Campaign Forum, or LCF, which took the decision on spurious grounds to reject the democratic decision of the members and not put forward Joseph as the candidate.
The chair of the LCF, Dan Frost, and secretary, Mike Higgs, last weekend aired their own “deep misgivings” about the selection and the events which followed. In a lengthy email to members in Fairfield ward, which was leaked to Inside Croydon, they called for an inquiry into aspects process.
The Croydon South motion being proposed calls for the resignation of Frost and Higgs for their part in the omnishambles.
The motion has been proposed by Andy Bagnall and Sarah Ward.
Bagnall is a former Croydon South CLP chair and Croydon councillor. The CLP has been in a long-running dispute with the LCF, and Newman, over campaign fund-raising and use of party funds.
The motion that they have put forward for consideration on Tuesday evening states:
“South Labour Party believes in member democracy and free and fair elections inside the Labour Party.
“It welcomes the decisions of the LCF in the context of the Fairfield by-election to have an open contest and allow members to choose the candidate they preferred to be their representative.
“It welcomes the decision of Fairfield ward members to choose as Labour candidate Jose Joseph, a working-class BAME member who runs a popular stall in Surrey Street market.
“Croydon South Labour Party therefore deplores the behaviour of the Council leadership and other LCF members in overturning the democratic decision of ward members, stripping Jose Joseph of the candidacy, besmirching his reputation, and imposing their preferred candidate on the day nominations closed. The imposed candidate had previously lost the selection contest and been explicitly rejected by ward members in an open democratic process.
“Croydon South Labour Party refuses to endorse the Labour candidate in the by-election as being legitimately selected by Labour Party members.
“It urges its members to boycott the campaign.
“Croydon South Labour Party calls on the chair and secretary of the LCF to resign and the delegates of Croydon South to move no confidence in those officers at the next LCF meeting. It calls for a full investigation to be conducted.”
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