Nearly a month since their self-proclaimed founder resigned as a councillor following a “serious incident”, Croydon Momentum have finally broken their silence over the scandal and shambles of the Labour Party selection for the Fairfield ward by-election.
In their belated statement Croydon Momentum say “it is very much apparent that something very serious has gone wrong”. They, like local Labour Party officials who were involved in the mishandled selection, have called for an immediate and full investigation.
Niro Sirisena was the Momentum member and leading figure in the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group in Croydon who was forced to resign as a councillor last month.
He was also employed, for a spell, in the constituency office of Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones. His conduct is now, according to council leader Tony Newman, subject to a police investigation.
Sirisena – who claimed to be “JC’s DJ” – is understood to have moved away from his central Croydon home, at least temporarily. In his absence, Momentum members have been left in limbo for weeks while one of their number, Surrey Street stall-holder Jose Joseph, was first selected and then summarily dumped as the Labour candidate for the ward by-election, replaced in a coup by Newman and the leadership by close colleague of Sirisena, Caragh Skipper.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, Croydon Momentum’s steering group broke their silence, though they chose not to make their statement public but instead restrict it to a private social media group. This, according to local Labour sources, is because they want to close down the matter and move swiftly on, as if nothing had happened. It was also suggested that Croydon Momentum did not want their statement to be published on Inside Croydon.
“They are idiots,” was the view of more than one Labour member.
In their belated and feeble statement, Momentum blamed the delay on their silence on one of their “key contacts” being in hospital. “Please also bear in mind we are also a group of volunteers,” they simpered.
They continued: “Croydon Momentum Steering Group are saddened to hear about the situation surrounding stalwart member Jose Joseph. Whilst we have not seen enough evidence to comment exactly on what has happened, it is very much apparent that something very serious has gone wrong.
“We call for an immediate full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the selection in Fairfield Ward and his removal as candidate and also for accountability for anyone who is found culpable for this.
“This has been a difficult situation for all involved. We ask members to refrain from personal attacks. We also call on members to avoid speculation until facts have been established.”
The final comment is somewhat odd, since officials from the Local Campaign Forum, the Labour committee which organises and runs the candidate selection process, issued a very full account of the events surrounding the de-selection of Joseph, which was published in full by Inside Croydon last week.
It is understood that Dan Frost, the chair of the LCF and one of the signatories to their mea culpa statement, has decided to stand down from that committee following the mishandling of the Fairfield selection, and so has withdrawn his nomination going before tonight’s annual meeting of the Croydon Central Constituency.
Among the various CLP officer positions up for election tonight is Shirley resident and Labour Party staffer Skipper.
She is standing, unopposed, for the role of “campaigns co-ordinator”.
“Yet she can’t even get anyone out for her own campaign,” according to one member.
“It’s not so much a campaign, more just a gathering of a few mates.”
That member, together with other Labour activists, have noted the nightly selfies posted on Twitter by Skipper (she has two accounts, with total followers numbering 207 and 98) since she was installed as the Fairfield candidate. “The selfies just underline how she’s so far been unable to attract widespread support.” Apart from, of course, a handful who receive generous council allowances from Skipper’s most enthusiastic supporter, Newman.
At tonight’s CLP AGM, there are three candidates to be Croydon Central chair: current post-holder Joyce Reid is opposed by Skipper colleague Rachel Krengel and by Carole Bonner, a former councillor and Newman loyalist.
At a meeting on Tuesday night of another of the borough’s CLPs, Croydon South, a motion condemning the conduct of the Fairfield candidate selection was passed by a majority of members, although it was vociferously opposed by Jane Avis, the councillor for South Norwood who lives in Selsdon suburbia, no doubt assisted by more than £40,000 per year in cabinet allowances thanks to her promotion by Newman.
The Croydon South motion also called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Fairfield selection, and although amendments to the motion saw it stop short of a call on members to boycott Skipper’s election campaign, it withdrew the CLP’s support from the Labour candidate:
“Croydon South Labour Party… 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 and believes members will decide to join the campaign or not accordingly.”
The Fairfield council by-election will be held on November 7.
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