Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on a leaked memo which belies the council leader’s true thoughts
Newman, the autocratic leader of the council, this week posted a tweet which claimed that Chris Philp, the Tory candidate in Croydon South, had “pressed the panic button” over campaign resources and canvassing.
To most informed observers, Newman’s claim had the appearance of his usual weapons-grade bullshit. After all, Philp is seeking re-election in a safe Conservative seat where in 2017 he enjoyed a comfy 11,406-vote majority. The bookmakers have Philp at 1/100 to be returned as the MP for Croydon South on December 12.
And a memo leaked to Inside Croydon betrays Newman’s true views about the south of the borough and campaigning across Croydon’s three parliamentary constituencies: Newman has no interest in the non-Labour south of the borough, and even less interest in his party’s election campaign there.
In an email entitled “Leader’s update” and sent to the borough’s 40 Labour councillors on Tuesday, Newman’s let slip his true feelings when he wrote, “Croydon’s mission is to ensure we send two Labour MPs back to parliament.”
By that, Newman means Steve Reed OBE in Croydon North and Sarah Jones in Croydon Central.
This, of course, is hardly a world exclusive. Labour has only ever fielded “paper candidates” in Croydon South while pouring their campaign funding, resources and activists into the marginal Croydon Central.
But it does expose the gulf between what Newman and the political classes say publicly and what they discuss in private.
And there’s also a little more to this than the anti-democratic campaign pragmatism of the two largest parties.
Newman and his clique who run the council have barely disguised their contempt for the southern part of the borough, and also for the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party.
The Labour candidates in borough elections who stand in wards in the south are regarded as paper candidates, just names to go on the ballot paper come election day, and given the bare minimum of campaign materials. In 2018, candidates in wards in the south were actually told by a Labour Party official that they were not to campaign or attend election events.
Of course, in the north of Croydon, and in safe Labour seats around the country next week, the reverse is true, with the Tories going through the motions with paper candidates of their own in seats that they have no prospect of winning – ask Purley councillor Oni Oviri, standing for the Tories in South Shields, or, closer to home, Donald Ekekhomen, the rookie Tory candidate in Croydon North.
This is the very antithesis of real democracy and is the consequence of the first-past-the-post system.
Yet Newman and his colleagues frustrated efforts from their own party members to select a serious candidate in Croydon South who would test to the full the notion that the seat was unwinnable. Sources in the party suggest that the Labour leadership at the council felt it would all be too much trouble and a distraction from the parliamentary campaigns in their own areas.
You might, then, think that Newman might have welcomed the maintenance of the status quo, with a candidate – the very capable Olga FitzRoy – imposed on Croydon South CLP by the party’s regional HQ. Not a bit of it. Such is his disdain for Croydon South that, according to sources close to FitzRoy, it was more than a week after her selection was announced before Newman even bothered contacting her. Newman didn’t even bother to send a simple text message of congratulations or welcome.
Thus, in his message to council colleagues this week, Newman revealed his true colours, and also showed how poor his political judgement really is.
“Comrades,” Newman wrote. “Just a few updates as we seek to continue to deliver business as usual, in the midst of the most important and divisive general election for many years.”
Under the heading, “Campaign 2019”, Newman wrote, “Croydon’s mission is to ensure we send two Labour MPs back to parliament and then hope the rest of the country can match our efforts in their local campaigns.
“Thank you everyone for the amazing contributions so far in supporting Sarah’s campaign, we have created the opportunity to pull off another historic victory.”
Note the absence of mention of Reed. As well as regarding Croydon South with contempt, winning in Croydon North is taken for granted by Newman.
Victory in Croydon Central, Newman added, “will only happen if over the remaining nine days we all redouble our collective effort again, and ensure every identified Labour supporter actually gets to cast their vote.
“The very future of our country may depend upon us succeeding.”
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