Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on the lengthy absence from work of the Labour Party staffer who fixed a candidate selection in favour of one of his mates
Mystery surrounds the continuing employment status of Jack Buck, the Labour Party official who fixed a candidate selection last year so that one of his friends could become a local councillor.
Buck’s long-term absence from work is likely to be a subject of discussion at a meeting of the Town Hall Labour group this evening.
An internal party report, leaked to Inside Croydon, was highly critical of the conduct of the party’s borough “organiser” ahead of last November’s Fairfield ward by-election.
Party members had duly selected Jose Joseph, a BAME member of Momentum and owner of a popular fruit and veg stall in Surrey Street. But due to what the report’s authors called “the questionable integrity and competence of paid party officers”, Joseph was not nominated as candidate as he should have been by Croydon Labour, and a party staff member, Caragh Skipper, was put forward instead.
Buck normally works out of the constituency office of Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones. But he has been on long-term sick-leave for weeks. Sources suggest that Buck has had “long covid”, the persistent form of the virus.
According to party sources, Buck’s illness was put forward as an excuse for his lack of co-operation with the four-person panel that conducted the inquiry into last year’s Fairfield ward stitch-up.
As well as his wage in Croydon, paid for by Croydon North and Croydon Central constituency parties, Buck also receives council allowances in Southwark, where he is a ward councillor in Walworth.
Now it has emerged that although Buck has been unwell, he has been well enough to travel to Norway, where he has told friends he has “settled in for the winter”. A keen user of social media, despite his illness the highly opinionated Buck has continued to share his views with the world on Twitter, although – embarrassingly for someone who is supposedly a councillor in Southwark – this week he managed to mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge, like some uninformed tourist.
The unfair treatment of Joseph was the subject of discussion at a meeting of Labour’s Local Campaign Forum last week which, according to those attending was, in the absence of Newman and his ever-eager sidekick Buck, conducted “in a much better spirit of co-operation and collaboration”.
As one source said, “You could even describe it as comradely.”
It had been LCF officials, in the face of hostile opposition from Newman and his cronies, who had pushed for the independent investigation into the events surrounding the fixed Fairfield nomination last year.
Following last week’s meeting, LCF official David White issued a statement accepting the report’s recommendations. “I’m pleased that ordinary members of the Labour Party came together to demand this independent inquiry, and that it has been so well-conducted.
“While the report cannot restore the position, or compensate Jose, I believe it will go a long way towards ensuring that such injustices cannot occur in the future. The democratic right of local parties to choose their own candidates is very important. It should never be interfered with without good reason.”
And Joseph also thanked the panel “for getting to the truth and clearing my name”.
He said, “Thanks all who supported and backed me up. As the report clearly states, I did everything right to support my party and the people of Croydon. I believe in the Labour Party and what it stands for.
“I also hope those who doubted me and my integrity now have a different view.”
Whether that applies to Buck is not known.
But as one councillor said today, “Of course we are very concerned about Jack’s health, and wish him a speedy recovery and return to work, when we will be able to ask him some important questions about his conduct.”
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