The annual meeting of a local Labour Party last night had to be left incomplete and with unfinished business because the online voting system used could not cope with the demands of the various ballots to be held.
Party officials in Croydon North Constituency Labour Party were left to send out mass emails in the early hours of this morning to advise members that they would be able to cast their votes for candidates in three contests today, with a 5pm deadline.
Some suggest that there were complications over the ballots because a transfer of emails to members included spelling errors.
The voting system being used last night was Anonyvoter, an online tool created by Henson IT Solutions, the company run by Croydon councillor Maddie Henson and her husband, Mark.
It is understood that the word “solutions” used in the company title is not meant ironically.
The general secretary of the Labour Party who approved the procurement of Anonyvoter from a relatively small company based in Croydon is David Evans.
Evans is the former campaign adviser to Tony Bliar whose Croydon-based business, The Campaign Company, received contracts from the local council worth at least £200,000 in the years immediately after Labour, under Tony Newman, won control of the Town Hall.
Anonyvoter has been the subject of widespread complaints from local groups around the country for its shortcomings in handling CLP business, including some reports of members’ votes not being counted and delays over the process. Momentum members in Bristol compared the procurement process that handed the business to the Hensons as being akin to Del Boy Trotter getting the deal.
Last night’s CLP business in Croydon North was seen to be a test between the “Revive” slate of candidates organised by councillor Jamie Audsley, and those backed by the constituency’s ultra-Blairite MP, Steve Reed OBE. The left, in the form of the Corbyn-supporting Momentum group, appears to have all but evaporated.
The outcome of last night’s meeting is expected to have an influence on Labour’s candidate selections for the 2022 local elections.
Reed – Keith Starmer’s front-bench spokesperson on local government – has been making moves to take a firmer grip on matters at crisis-hit Croydon Town Hall.
Apparently on his own initiative, Reed has established a “councillor training group”, to which only hand-picked members have been invited to take part. Earlier this month Reed’s parliamentary assistant, Loizos Carserides, was elected as a councillor for South Norwood in one of the by-elections staged following the resignations as councillors of discredited Newman and Simon Hall, key figures in the borough’s financial collapse.
At first, the AGM business appeared to be going smoothly, with Mohammed Islam and Appu Dhamodaran – both Reed loyalists – re-elected as chair and secretary of the CLP. Joel Bodmer, seen as close to Reed, and Catherine Wilson were elected as vice-chairs.
It was then that the meeting ran into difficulties.
In a note from officials circulated among members today, and seen by Inside Croydon, it said, “As those who attended will know, the enormous task of managing the online voting for our first online AGM mean that a few ballots needed to be reorganised and sent out after the meeting.”
And they added, “It was no easy task to bring us through all the voting.”
The outstanding business includes electing two observers to attend meeting of the Labour councillors’ group (which must be fun), the delegates to attend the national Labour Party conference, and to choose representatives for the Local Campaign Forum – the all-powerful committee that oversees candidate selections, among other tasks.
CLP sources suggest that this is where Anonyvoter really came unstuck, handling a transferable voting system for eight candidates for four places, including ensuring that at least two of the successful candidates should be women.
The official’s note to members continued, “If you were one of the 67 GC delegates registered at the AGM as eligible voters, pls [sic] look out for the email from ‘Noreply@Anonyvoter.com’ entitled ‘Croydon North Constituency Labour Party AGM – Rerun Votes’, which has the link to cast your remaining votes.
“This was sent circa 00:40am this morning. You should also have received by now an email from CLP Secretary Appu Dhamodaran confirming this and that the 67 GC delegates who were at the AGM have until 5pm today Friday 28th May to return their votes.”
CLP sources have contacted Inside Croydon to express their frustration with the voting system, which made the already difficult task for officials of organising a virtual meeting almost impossible.
“But still, it could be worse,” one added. “We could be in Croydon South.”
Croydon South CLP has had no members’ meetings organised, virtual or otherwise, since February 2020.
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