Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on how an internal party scandal is about to cause more discomfort for the Croydon council leader
As council leader Tony Newman comes under increasing pressure over a range of policy failures, while the Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon campaign closes in on the signatures it needs to force a borough-wide referendum, news emerges that the veteran Labour politician is also losing his grip on power within his own party.
Last month, Newman was thwarted twice on key votes at a meeting of the Local Campaign Forum, the internal Labour committee made up of representatives from the borough’s three parliamentary constituency parties.
In the past, Newman has always held the balance of power on this committee, as he has been able to attend with two other, hand-picked “representatives” from Labour’s council group, councillors who benefit from patronage doled out by the leader.
At last month’s LCF, Newman rolled up with his henchman Clive Fraser (£26,316.96 per year in council “allowances” as the group chief whip) and the increasingly fraught Alisa Flemming (the cabinet member whose “loyalty bonus” amounts to £45,168 of public money in council allowances awarded to her by Newman).
Despite such backing, Newman’s writ was overturned, right from the very first item on the agenda.
That was to elect a chair of the LCF.
“Thirsty” Fraser nominated Yvonne Green, a past favourite of Newman’s regime who has the dubious claim to fame that the last time she held office, she managed to ensure that the LCF went an entire 12 months without meeting…
Delegates from the left managed to put forward the local campaigner Joyce Reid, and she was duly elected as chair when it came to a vote.
Newman and his chums ought to have got the hint. They didn’t.
Newman had set the toxic tone for the meeting by demanding a declaration from all those attending to say whether they had been guilty of leaking a report from the LCF’s previous meeting to Inside Croydon. Oddly, Newman never did discover who the source was. Nor did it occur to him how stupid a move this will have been.
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That report, on the mishandling of the candidate selection for November’s Fairfield ward by-election, was drafted by David White, a retired solicitor and former CLP secretary in Croydon Central. The findings of White’s report were critical of the manner in which the candidate’s nomination had been handled, in what amounted to a conspiracy among senior Croydon Labour figures to get one of their mates on to the council.
White’s carefully researched and detailed document was later publicly derided by Newman, in an email to councillor colleagues that has also been seen by Inside Croydon. Newman characterised the report as “defamatory smears… as a result of David Whites [sic] nasty fantasies”.
White reported that LCF officials and members had been fed inaccurate information about the eligibility to stand for the council of Jose Joseph, the Surrey Street market trader who Fairfield Labour members had selected as their candidate. White’s report includes confirmation of this interpretation from council’s most senior solicitor.
Despite Newman’s grandstanding claim to party members that Inside Croydon’s reporting was in some way “defamatory”, he has taken no action to seek a correction or apology.
Newman’s missive to councillors went on, at some length, repeating the false claims about Joseph, which were used to railroad through Caragh Skipper as the Labour candidate.
At February’s LCF meeting, despite all Newman and his clique’s best efforts to cover-up the selection scandal, when the committee, chaired by Reid, moved on to item (4) on its agenda, they duly passed a motion that will see the conduct of the candidate selection for the Fairfield by-election referred to an independent review, conducted by party members from outside Croydon.
Just the sort of scrutiny which Newman really never expected, nor wanted.
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