Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the latest allegations of rule-breaking by a veteran Labour councillor
“Pat has lost it.”
That’s the view of a senior member of the Labour Party in Crystal Palace after a month in which their veteran councillor, Pat Ryan, has voted with the Tories and been seen out canvassing during the lockdown, appearing to be breaking the coronavirus laws about social distancing and wearing a mask.
Ryan has been a councillor for what is now called Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward since November 1992.
A staunch supporter of the discredited former council leader Tony Newman, Ryan’s time on the council could soon be coming to an end not because of his increasingly eccentric public conduct, but because of an “embarrassing outburst” at a Labour branch meeting a year ago which led to the resignation of two women party officials.
The Crystal Palace branch chair, Sue Dzendzera, and secretary, Christina Brandenburg, quit after Ryan “went off on one” because he opposed allowing the meeting to hear a talk from local environmental activist Tom Chance about the community land trust which the (Labour-run) council had helped to establish in the area.
Chance has previously stood in elections as a candidate for the Green Party, which appeared to be the substance of Ryan’s loud objection.
Ryan’s behaviour at that meeting is subject to investigation within the local party.
With selections for the 2022 council elections coming up later this year, septuagenarian Ryan is no longer the automatic shoo-in among party colleagues he once was, with many thinking the time has come for him to stand back.
Ryan’s position on the Low Traffic Neighbourhood in his ward has also caused division among the local Labour Party, after the councillor showed support for acts of vandalism against the CCTV cameras installed at a bus gate on Auckland Road, and then voted with Conservative opposition councillors for the removal of measures to stop car drivers using residential streets as rat runs.
“The consensus in the ward branch is that Pat has lost it,” a Labour source told Inside Croydon.
“The embarrassing outburst about stopping a former Green Party candidate giving a talk to the branch about the Community Land Trust was bad enough and led to the resignation of the chair and secretary.
“The LTN saga, however, seems to be the final straw.
“It’s not just about toeing the party line. There is a feeling that by going public with his objections, which many saw as Pat playing to the gallery to maintain his personal popularity, he helped intensify the personal attacks on the other ward councillors, Nina Degrads and particularly Stephen Mann.”
Despite the financial collapse of the council under the Blairite clique led by Tony Newman, Ryan has confided in Labour colleagues that he does intend to seek re-selection to stand again in 2022.
The selection of candidates to stand for Labour at council elections usually take place at ward level, and can sometimes be determined by just a handful of members who bother to turn up.
Ryan may have alienated too many party colleagues, though. “I get the impression that most members feel enough is enough,” said the source. “At the same time, there is a lot of sentimentality when it comes to Pat.”
Ryan’s desire to stand again possibly explains his renewed demonstrations of public enthusiasm for Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE, and the unauthorised – and potentially illegal – canvassing session carried out in the snow last month with John Wentworth.
Wentworth is a former Croydon councillor and election agent for Blairite Reed, whose greatest claim to fame in his time on the council was to get caught watching a football match in the middle of a Town Hall meeting. Alongside Wentworth that night was Pat Ryan. As Newman loyalists, they were given nothing more than a mild ticking off from their leader.
Ryan and Wentworth might struggle to get off so lightly after the pair boasted about breaking lockdown rules to “meet residents” last month. Wentworth tweeted a selfie of him and Ryan, together with two other adults and a child, none of them wearing masks or practising social distancing.
Canvassing and leafleting is currently banned by the Labour Party. In guidance issued just a few days before Wentworth and Ryan went off on their own bit of private campaigning, Labour told members and party officials, “Due to the recently announced national lockdown you must not be door knocking, leafleting or conducting street stalls while the current restrictions are in place.” Seems clear enough.
It is also against the law, with the police having issued £200 fines for those caught not wearing masks or other lockdown offences.
Inside Croydon understands that a complaint about Ryan and Wentworth’s conduct has been submitted to the Metropolitan Police.
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