Genuine community activists who have been tirelessly providing food to the vulnerable and needy in their neighbourhood for nearly five years have turned on a couple of Conservative Party election candidates for trying to piggy-back their hard work.
“It’s a mystery to us why Conservatives like getting a selfie advertising the food poverty they helped to create,” was the view of one volunteer with the South Norwood Community Kitchen after Michelle Kazi and Sonia Marinello published opportunistic selfies of themselves standing outside one of the kitchen’s food drop-off points.
Kazi is the Tories’ candidate in Woodside while Marinello is standing in neighbouring South Norwood for the Conservatives. The council by-elections are being held on May 6 following the resignations of sitting Labour councillors, including the discredited former leader of the council, Tony Newman.
Last week, as she got her campaign underway, Kazi gushed on social media: “Visited South Norwood and Woodside social club with [Sonia Marinello] today!
“We had a lovely chat with the lady there and dropped off some essentials for @NorwoodKitchen. If you’re around do drop by and help the community here,” the true-blue Tory candidate wrote, helpfully adding her personal election campaign hashtag.
Marinello also tweeted a message which may have sought to imply that she was in some way connected to the community kitchen.
“I will work with the community to help support those who rely on these amazing groups,” Marinello oozed her new-found concern. Helpfully, to her own interests, she remembered to put her own election campaign hashtag alongside her message.
This annexation of other people’s voluntary efforts for the Tories’s political ambitions has been subject to a fierce backlash.
“Stick your smooth talk up your arse,” was one activist’s unambiguous message to the mere here-today-and-gone-tomorrow politicians (© Sir Robin Day, 1982).
Laura Whittall, who co-founded the South Norwood Community Kitchen in 2017 and has been an active mutual aid worker throughout the coronavirus pandemic of the past year, hit out at “career politicians” who try to bask in the reflected glory of other people’s genuine hard work.
Whittell has done much selfless volunteering to help residents in her area, including setting up a twice-weekly delivery service of hot meals for the old, the lonely and the vulnerable.
“Don’t put me on a podium to make yourself ‘on brand’ and say you’ve spoken to the community,” she said today in remarks clearly targeted at the Tories.
“When will we have real people making change? I know they’re out there, most probably not able to see their power yet. But all I see is photo ops and a whole lot of hair gel.”
The Tories’ opportunism was also outed by Jane Nicholl, another volunteer with the community kitchen and a member of the South Norwood Tourist Board. Nicholl has put herself forward as an independent candidate in the South Norwood by-election. Nicholl’s partner, Ian Bone – “Britain’s most dangerous man” – is standing in Woodside.
“Your sudden interest in the SNCK, which neither of you have previously shown interest in, appears a cynical ploy to make yourselves look like you are well involved. You’re not,” Nicholl wrote in response to the two Tories’ social media activity.
“Please stop using us as a cheap way of making yourselves look good.”
As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, also included among the Conservative candidates in the ward by-elections next month is Ola Kolade, who on the previous occasion he tried to get elected was publicly reproached by three bishops for making false statements about the church and the council in his election leaflets.
This time, Kolade is standing in Kenley, a safe Conservative ward. And that means that in three weeks’ time, he will most likely be a councillor in three weeks.
The same cannot be said for Kazi or Marinello.
- If anyone, including Conservative election candidates, wishes to make a donation to the South Norwood Community Kitchen – an organisation which only exists as a consequence of Tory austerity policies – they are invited to do so on the SNCK’s website by clicking here
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Perhaps someone of a psephological nature could set my mind at rest. Is the clusterfuck that is Croydon Labour likely to cause enough of a revolt to affect the Mayorial and GLA elections?