WALTER CRONXITE on how the Labour Party is parachuting into Croydon South a General Election candidate, after a ‘selection’ which even ‘Toxic’ Tony Newman could not fix
For the second General Election in succession, Labour Party HQ has decided to parachute-in an outsider as their candidate for Tory-held Croydon South, bypassing local party members, who never got to have any say in the matter.
This time they have chosen Streatham resident and women’s rights campaigner Olga FitzRoy (Who? Ed).
The decision was announced via an email to Croydon South Constituency Labour Party members late last night.
It represents another knock-back for Labour’s local leader, “Toxic” Tony Newman, who had been pushing for one of his Town Hall favourites, Hamida Ali, to be given the task of losing to Chris Philp, the Conservative who retained the seat with an 11,000-vote majority in 2017.
The reaction from local Labour Party members was generally underwhelmed, although one Corbyn-supporting activist, Paul Ainscough, confessed on Twitter that, “People who know me well understand why I am looking at my email and saying ‘What the f..?'”
The interweb informs us that FitzRoy was born in Berlin 37 years ago and that she is fluent in German. She grew up in Germany and at St Andrew’s, Scotland, where she attended the prestigious Madras College.
Madras’ motto is Pro Rege et Grege – “For King and People”, for those who didn’t do Latin at school. It supposedly reminds the college’s pupils of the value of work in the community, which will be a useful guide for the Labour candidate as she has to familiarise herself with Croydon South between now and General Election day on December 12.
FitzRoy is a recording engineer and was Recording Engineer of the Year at the 2016 Music Producers Guild awards. So that’s nice.
It didn’t take any award-winning performances to get picked in Croydon South, though.
The Croydon South CLP had been asking for more than a year for its 800 members to be allowed to select their candidate themselves. But they were repeatedly stalled and frustrated by party officials, and with the election called this week, the candidate choice was made centrally.
This is the second time in succession that there has been an outsider imposed just before the election, with Labour opting not to contest Croydon South seriously. As far as the decision-makers at Labour HQ are concerned, the key battle in Croydon is Croydon Central, won for Labour in 2017 by Sarah Jones, but where the latest opinion polls predict a Tory gain.
In 2017, Labour’s candidate in Croydon South was also from Lambeth. Jennifer Brathwaite, a senior councillor at Brixton Town Hall, in her first venture as a parliamentary candidate, struggled to adapt to the locality, showed her ignorance of the constituency when she did not bother to spell place names correctly, and was so disinterested in the whole matter that she didn’t turn up for election hustings.
And yet, with an absentee candidate, such was the impact of Corbynmania in 2017, even in true-blue Croydon South, Philp’s majority came tumbling down from the 17,000 he had enjoyed just two years earlier.
Until Boris Johnson called the General Election last week, it had been expected that Croydon South’s Labour selection would be a local contest between Andrew Pelling, one of only three Labour councillors in the Croydon South constituency, and Hamida Ali, a member of Newman’s Town Hall clique. Fellow councillors Jamie Audsley and Callton Young were also interested in standing.
Possibly encouraged by Newman to believe the selection matter was done, dusted and a foregone conclusion, Ali had already launched a social media campaign in which she appeared to regard herself as Labour’s name on the ballot paper, using a logan lifted straight from the Gavin Barwell playbook: “A strong voice for Croydon South”.
She’d even gone to the trouble of travelling south from the Woodside ward she is supposed to represent to record a brief video to talk of her “belief in equality and social justice”, being “the reason I have spent 20 years working to tackle discrimination and promote equality in organisations across the public sector”.
Ali also spoke of her holding “the toughest cabinet role” on the council of “keeping people safe”.
It was a pity that Ali and whoever helped her produce the video did not give more thought to consider its setting: in the middle of some of the Croydon South Green Belt, with an open field behind her which she and Newman’s administration have recently put up for consideration to turn into a building site for thousands of new homes, something unlikely to have won her many votes.
At least now that she has been passed over by the Labour Party, Ali will have more time for her important crime-fighting role.
Ali’s rejection by Labour HQ is just the latest sign of the waning influence of council leader Newman, even over local matters. A poor result in this Thursday’s council by-election in Fairfield ward will, surely, only raise further serious questions about Newman’s poor judgement.
*This article was amended on Nov 11, 2019
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