The chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party avoided losing a no confidence motion in her competence last night by delaying the vote long enough so that friends and allies were able to log-in to the meeting belatedly.
The voting was fixed by Carole Bonner, a former New Addington councillor and a long-time Tony Newman loyalist.
The vote of no confidence was called by members after chair Bonner decided unilaterally to block a motion to debate the emergency in Palestine.
This latest suppression of freedom of speech and open debate within the Labour Party came on the same night when another group of members were told of how two Croydon MPs and officials from Keir Starmer’s office had put pressure on a pair of borough mayors not to address a public meeting.
Croydon Central’s MP is Sarah Jones. It is the CLP where at one meeting, the then chair banned the use of the word “Blairite”, on the grounds that it was used as a pejorative.
According to a party member at last night’s CLP meeting, Bonner blocked the Palestine motion “not because it was out of order, just because of some vague stuff about how she disagreed with bans on arms sales and discussing things that aren’t aligned with existing Labour policy”.
“Is that in the rule book? I think not,” they said.
Over the past two weeks, as Palestinians and the Israeli military have launched rocket attacks on one another. In Gaza, 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women. At least 1,710 others have been wounded. The death toll in Israel is 12.
Intervention by US President Joe Biden has brought about a ceasefire in the last 24 hours, with the UN and other world leaders promising reconstruction aid for Gaza after it has been devastated by the shelling.
But here in Croydon, such matters are banned from even being discussed, according to those in charge of the local Labour Party.
One member described last night’s meeting as “farcical”.
After the emergency motion was submitted on Palestine, Bonner claimed she alone had the authority to block it. She said she was doing so because “It doesn’t mention international law”, that “it calls for bans on arms sales” and “it goes against Labour Party policy”.
Others more familiar with the party rule book and the CLP’s standing orders suggest that Bonner exceeded her powers. “She doesn’t have the authority to block a motion,” they said. “She can make a recommendation and the meeting votes on whether to discuss it.
“Of course we can discuss things that are against Labour policy. That’s how we change them.”
After Bonner refused to accept this, and refused to cede the right to vote on discussing the motion back to the meeting, members then called for a motion of no confidence – not to remove her outright as chair, but just stop her taking part in that part of the meeting.
The vote was split, 20-20.
Members say that Bonner then filibustered while she brought in at least five Blairites who had not been present at the start of the meeting, including political official and Progress fan Martin Angus and former Assembly Member Fiona Twycross.
Others who rallied to Bonner’s call but made it too late to vote included Paul Scott, a member of the Town Hall clique who bankrupted the borough.
“There’s an increasingly authoritarian attitude to dissent in the CLP,” one member told Inside Croydon today, “whether that’s against the local council or the national party line.
“They’ve cleared out the left. But what they haven’t done is have a clear out of those responsible for getting the borough, and the party in Croydon, in the mess it’s in today.”
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