Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on how the local MP could soon have a member of his office staff on the council
Croydon North’s Progress MP, Steve Reed OBE, yesterday moved one step closer to his goal of installing a placeman on Croydon Council, when a member of his own Parliamentary staff was narrowly selected as the Labour candidate for next month’s South Norwood ward by-election.
There is no doubt that the collapse of the Labour-run council in his constituency and the resulting controversy surrounding some of the MP’s Blairite colleagues, such as the discredited former council leader Tony Newman, has been a cause of deep, squirming embarrassment for Reed, who just happens to be Sir Keith Starmer’s shadow cabinet member for… local government.
Yet despite having the strong backing of an influential Labour MP, in a ward selection meeting where local party members were given a choice between only three candidates, in the final round of voting full-time political staffer Louis Carserides scraped in by a mere four votes ahead of community volunteer and teacher Amy Foster, 27 to 23.
“Congratulations to Louis Carserides,” Reed was quick to tweet last night.
“He’s from South Norwood and for South Norwood, the place he was born, raised and still lives. He’s Labour’s candidate in the by-election on 6 May and will work night and day to make South Norwood better for everyone who lives there.”
Reed forgot to mention that he happens to be Carserides’ employer at Westminster, where among their office colleagues is Louisa Szpera, the long-term partner of… Tony Newman.
For his part, Carserides (who has the platitude on his social media profile that says, “Everyone deserves an honest shot at their dream. No matter who they are or where they’re from”), has yet to have anything to say for himself on Twitter concerning his selection for “an honest shot at his dream”, an opportunity to be elected to the biggest basket-case of a council in the whole country.
Carserides, who is listed on the House of Commons register as “Loizos Carserides”, now has the chance to retain one of the safest of Labour ward seats: in 2018, it returned three Labour councillors – Jane Avis, Clive Fraser and Patsy Cummings – each with majorities of almost 2,000 votes ahead of their Tory opposition.
But Carserides can expect to encounter significant hostility to Labour over issues such as the council’s disastrous Brick by Brick housing company, the appalling conditions in council flats on Regina Road, which is in South Norwood ward, and Labour councillors’ neglect of the tenants living there, as well as controversies over low traffic neighbourhoods in the area, and, of course, the crass mismanagement which led to the council’s financial collapse.
All three South Norwood councillors were, for at least a short period, beneficiaries of generously public-funded patronage under the disastrous Newman administration. Until last month, Fraser was the enforcer as chief whip of the Labour group, while Cummings is the Labour candidate in May’s London Assembly election for the Croydon and Sutton constituency. Throughout the council’s financial collapse, Cummings was the deputy cabinet member for finances, a position she was only removed from last month.
The by-election has been called following the resignation for personal reasons of veteran councillor Avis, and is one of five council by-elections being staged on May 6, the same day as the London Mayor and Assembly elections.
Labour yesterday also named its fourth by-election candidate as Christina Reshekaron, who will contest the Conservative-held Park Hill and Whitgift ward, where members were offered a choice of five short-listed candidates.
There has yet been no announcement over Labour’s selection of a candidate in true-blue Kenley.
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