The fix is in: Labour leaders endorse status quo on 14% turnout

CROYDON IN CRISIS: After overseeing the failure of the borough’s children’s services, setting up the loss-making Brick by Brick, presiding over slum-like conditions in council flats and bankrupting the borough, some of Tony Newman’s closest colleagues are claiming ‘victory’ over a members’ ballot in which few bothered to vote. By STEVEN DOWNES

Someone’s  laughing: Tony Newman’s  influence over his numpties is still strong

The Croydon Labour Party’s headlong charge towards political oblivion continued over the weekend, as the remnants of Tony Newman’s discredited Town Hall regime claimed victory in a fixed internal party poll over the future governance of the borough.

Yet it was the most hollow of victories, claimed after barely 600 of the party’s  4,000 members and affiliates in the borough bothered to take part in the Labour group’s obviously stitched-up online poll.

A borough-wide referendum has been arranged for October 7 over whether the council should continue to be run with the “strong leader” model, under which a council leader is elected by just a couple of dozen councillors (who all then jump on the gravy train and collect their generously enhanced allowances), or whether there should be a switch to a mayor, elected by all electors within Croydon.

The referendum has been called after 21,000 people signed a petition demanding change from the system under which Newman bankrupted the borough. Directly elected mayors have already adopted by Labour boroughs such as Lewisham, Hackney and Newham.

Newman, until he was forced to resign last year after 15 years as leader, fiercely opposed any such change which might undermine his position, such as the prospect of having to seek support from the voters from the whole borough.

Despite everything that has happened in the nine months since their leader’s resignation and his suspension from the Labour Party, the Newman numpties who retain strong influence in the Labour group of councillors at the Town Hall – including former deputies Alison Butler and Stuart Collins, Paul Scott and discredited scrutiny chair Sean Fitzsimons – have been doing their utmost to maintain the status quo.

Stuart Collins: Newman’s deputy is opposed to change

And to get endorsement for their self-interest, they came up with a convoluted ballot of local members which offered options which can’t be voted on in the October referendum and two separate votes – offering just enough confusion and conflation that they would be able to claim success whatever the eventual outcome.

Local Labour MPs barely issued a peep of concern or criticism of the council throughout the scandals of the failed children’s services department, the massive losses of Brick by Brick, the bungled refurb of the Fairfield Halls or the scandal of the slum-like conditions of flats in Regina Road. But ahead of the “wrong leader” vote, Newman’s old mates Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones wrote to party members urging them to oppose change.

And so, when they eventually, if somewhat slowly, produced the results last night – having collected the votes via the dodgy Anonyvoter system – the likes of Reed, Jones, Collins and Fitzsimons were quick to claim a victory, even though, in one of their votes, more Labour members voted in favour of a directly elected mayor than for the “wrong” leader.

‘Steve Deceive’: Progress MP appears to have forgotten that elected mayors are a Blairite policy

Reed’s superquick tweet of just part of the result saw him dubbed “Steve Deceive” on social media.

In fact, the overwhelming winner in the ballot was utter apathy, with a turnout among members and activists as bad as the pathetic number who voted for the deposit-losing Labour candidate at last week’s Chesham and Amersham parliamentary by-election disaster.

Even taking the larger turnout figure, only 614 out of Croydon’s 4,000 Labour members and union activists – 14 per cent – bothered to go to the trouble to respond to the councillors’ emailed online ballot – a number which may demonstrate the deepening disillusionment with the people seen as responsible for the council’s financial collapse and other failings.

The “lack of self-awareness” with which the council has been criticised by government officials was evident yet again when, in an email to members sent out on a Sunday evening from Hamida Ali, Newman’s successor as council leader, the Labour group claimed that “54 per cent of members/affiliated members prefer the leader and cabinet model”.

That headline figure is based on the votes of just 327 members – doubtless including most of Labour’s 40 councillors and their two MPs.

Vote 1, with more Labour members voting for a directly elected mayor than any other system, some tried claiming 377 votes in favour of a strong leader model. Just as easily,it could  be said that 386 opposed the strong leader model

The Labour group’s lack of confidence in the outcome of the ballot was such that beforehand they declared that it would be “indicative” only – meaning if it went against their views, they would ignore it anyway.

But by putting up two separate votes, and including the option of a committee system which cannot be considered on the referendum ballots in October, Newman’s numpties went to great lengths to ensure that they could take whatever they needed from the outcome.

In the end, what they got was Labour members voting both to support and to oppose having a directly-elected mayor.

And when more members voted in favour of a directly-elected mayor in the first vote, Reed, Fitzsimons and clueless Collins simply ignored that outcome and added the votes for a committee system to those in favour of the “wrong leader” model to claim success.

Such a contradictory couple of results will surely only add to the continuing misery and mess that Labour in Croydon has created for itself.

If, as seems inevitable, October’s borough-wide referendum gets a majority in favour of a mayor, there will then be a mayoral election held in May 2022. Croydon’s Labour councillors appear keen to spend the next three months campaigning to oppose the mayoral system, and then on October 8 do a 180-degree turn and pick a candidate to stand for Croydon Mayor to try to retain control of the Town Hall. And they think that the electorate won’t notice the inherent hypocrisy, self-serving cant and, indeed, utter stupidity of that position.

Vote 2, where just 327 out of 4,000 party members and affiliates could be arsed to cast a vote, showing the growing disillusionment with local Labour leadership

Few current Labour councillors dared to voice any support for the mayoral system when Newman was still in charge, for fear of being cast into the local political wilderness.

One of them, Jamie Audsley – who is transparently hoping that he might be Labour’s choice of mayoral candidate – said on Sunday night, “Croydon Labour has had an important democratic discussion about how our town is run – it’s good to see the preferred model of members is to change to a Directly Elected Mayor. It’s great to see so much support for a Directly Elected Mayor. If it’s this popular with members, imagine how popular this will be with voters in October!”

In her email to members, Hamida Ali chose to focus on the poll result that favoured her position of being selected by her councillor colleagues.

Newman’s  numpty: Labour used a voting system provided by Maddie Henson

Yet the outcome, and the profoundly low turnout, can be taken as showing a massive lack of confidence in Ali and the Labour councillors who bankrupted the council.

The Labour group of councillors also have the continuing issue that one of the borough’s three Constituency Labour Parties – Croydon South – has twice voted in favour of a change of council governance system, and is unlikely to alter its position any time soon.

And while many questioned the drafting of the ballot options, there remain strong reservations about the voting system that was used. Anonyvoter is run by Maddie Henson, a Labour councillor and devoted Newman numpty.

MP Reed’s Twitter announcement on Sunday night suggested to some that it might be possible that he some sort of inside information about the outcome of the mainly electronic ballot. “Croydon Labour members have voted in our councillors’ consultation following strong votes against by Croydon North and Croydon Central Labour parties.” How else could he know how different CLPs had voted?

There are also serious questions about why it took 18 hours after the voting was closed for the result to be released.

Newman supporter: Sean Fitzsimons was  allowed to ‘brief’ Labour members on a mayoral system he opposes

And, inevitably, there was the usual bitter nastiness from former Labour Party staffer, Blairite Martin Angus, who dismissed the winning 215 votes for a democratically elected mayor as “377 against, 215 for Jamie!”

Fitzsimons accused the DEMOC campaign of being run by “a few wealthy resident associations”. Fitzsimons (who Newman had placed on £42,000 per year council-funded allowances as chair of non-scrutiny) had been given the job of presenting supposedly balanced briefings about the choices to Labour members. Though that members appear to see through Fitzsimons’ poorly-drafted PowerPoint.

Katharine Street sources suggest that the Labour poll was such a foregone conclusion for Ali, Fitzsimons and Collins that they have already written their material for the anti-DEMOC campaign.

According to Ali’s email, the Labour group will hold a special meeting on Saturday, when they will consider the non-binding result of the “indicative” ballot, and then go ahead and do what they always wanted to do in the first place.

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7 Responses to The fix is in: Labour leaders endorse status quo on 14% turnout

  1. My view of this is 21,000 people thought Newman, Butler, Scott, Fitz-stupid and Hall were all shit at their council roles and just 600 people disagreed.

    Bring on the elected Mayor for Croydon.

  2. CentralCroydon says:

    If they think that the “first past the post” voting system results don’t count, then perhaps there should be a recount of the last set of local elections. I doubt many of the labour group got more than 50% of the popular vote. Clearly their grasp and presentation of number showing a loss but presented as a “profit” explains how their shit grasp of finances managed to bankrupt the borough.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    I am wondering if Mr Reed Ms Ali and co are becoming Emperors. They are certainly behaving like they are. Especially that famous emperor who always admired the clothes he wore. All the nice people who basked in their favor kept telling them how wonderful and nice they looked in the hope of somereward for their own ends

    At least until some little tyke laughed and said ” Look Dad He is naked” He has no clothes on.

    Does any sane reasonable person in the Labour membership actually think that the Councillors who presided over the biggest local shambles and mismanagement in living history?

    An MP all the Councillors blanketed the membership and spoke of fraternity brotherhood and we are all friends here and exactly 206 is about all the CLP were able to drum up to support this discredited bunch.

    That is what this system has done. It has turned well meaning and caring individuals giving for the community into scapegoats for the many few who abused their position and trust of their electorate.

    The putting forward of a return to the Committee system which had it’s own issues was a bit like ”look at this nice old cloak that used to make you feel warm and fuzzy – it may be old and moth eaten and will never be used again but it can create a warm nostaglic glow that will make you believe that despite being stark naked – it’s not going to be a hard cold winter of discontent.”

    The sad thing for the Electorate isis that the alternatives are – if not worse – then just as bad.

    The Emperor sadly has no clothes – but neither do any of the pretenders to the throne.

  4. What we have here is an arrogant out-of-touch sad excuse for a leadership clinging to the past and to power out of nothing other than narrow self-interest. They don’t care what the majority of their party members think let alone the voting public, who they don’t believe should have any choice in the matter.

    In three and a half months’ time they’ll get the comeuppance they deserve when Croydon people get to take part in a referendum for a democratically-elected Mayor. A majority of those who turn out to vote will choose that option, not for the strong leader model that gave us Tony Newman and Mike Fisher. But unless it’s more than 50% of the entire borough electorate of nearly 270,000 people, under CroydonLabournomics, Tony’s cronies will insist its a minority that should be ignored in favour of the status quo.

    Come next May they’ll lose the contest for the Mayor and with luck, lose their majority on the council. The bad news is that we’ll be condemned to years of Tory misrule, but at least we’ll know who to blame.

  5. Marzia Nicodemi Ehikioya says:

    I have never supported the tories and it is disingenuous for Mr Reed to conflate the referendum with tory policy. Would he support the removal of Mayors Khan, Burnham and others? Would he go against his guru Blair?

  6. Bob Bayliss says:

    So when it comes to the referendum in October Croydon Labour will be on record as being on the wrong side of public opinion, as it has been in every election and referendum over the past decade.

  7. Its as I said, people are just losing interest in the local Labour Party because of its parlous record, insensitivity and arrogance.

    It’s not only the party who is losing touch. I fear it is happening to our lovely MP Sarah Jones.

    She wrote to me and all members to say she was supporting, with no reason given, the “strong leader” and cabinet system in the woeful mini-referendum just completed. I asked her how she could do that in view of the disaster that was the legacy of the last “strong man” regime.

    It was a polite and careful letter. No acknowledgement and no reply. I wonder why!

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