Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports that Labour’s problems nationally are being reflected in the party’s selection process for next May’s council elections. Plus a change of mind by two of the council’s more notorious figures
Almost one-quarter of the sitting councillors in the Labour group which controls Croydon Town Hall have not applied to be reselected by the party to stand as candidates in next May’s local council elections.
Ten of the council’s 41 Labour councillors have decided not to continue in local politics at the cash-strapped council.
That’s in addition to the three Labour councillors who resigned earlier this year, who included the discredited former council leader Tony Newman and his finance chief, Simon Hall, following their suspension from the party.
That 10/41 represents a significant “churn rate” among local councillors before the four-yearly elections, and is seen by insiders as a reflection of the brutal and bruising past few years of the administration under Newman and his “controlling” clique.
“It is an unusually high turnover rate,” a source told Inside Croydon.
“But under the circumstances, and the way in which some councillors were treated by Newman and his clique, who can blame them?”
According to a usually reliable source within the Croydon Labour Party, by the time of the deadline for applications a fortnight ago, officials had received just 80 applications from members to be candidates in 2022, in a borough where the party is expected to contest 70 councillor vacancies.
The source, familiar with the local party’s selection process, suggests that a large number of members have left the party over the course of the past 18 months and, unlike in 2018 at a time of “peak Corbyn”, there are few among those who have lodged candidate applications from Momentum, the Corbyn supporters group, or the left of the party.
Seemingly with all but 10 applicants guaranteed to go forward on to the ballot papers, it presents the party’s hierarchy with a small talent pool from which to draw candidates who will be expected to pore over the business of the local authority for the next four years, while also kow-towing to the all-powerful improvement board which has been given the task of overseeing all the council’s business.
How many of those who do get to stand will actually be elected, though, is arguable. Labour in Croydon could be looking at its worst local election results for 16 years: in 2006, they won just 27 of the 70 council seats.
Following the scandals of Croydon’s financial collapse, the twin catastrophes of Brick by Brick and the Fairfield Halls refurbishment, and the appalling conditions inflicted on council tenants at Regina Road, it seems clear that there are few Labour members in Croydon with an appetite to wade through the mire created by Newman and his numpties.
Such potential adversities do not appear to have dissuaded some of Newman’s old guard from making the selfless (ha!) sacrifice of offering themselves up for a £11,000 per year (minimum) top-up of their pensions.
Septuagenarians Toni Letts (a long-time Newman supporter), Pat Ryan (similarly obsequious) and Bernadette Khan are among those who have signed on the dotted line for another four years.
All three currently represent safe Labour wards, and at least two of them – Letts and Khan – had previously indicated that they would be retiring from the council. In the case of Ryan, there has been no indication whether a disciplinary complaint filed against him, after he shouted at two women colleagues at a branch meeting, has ever been resolved.
In any case, with Croydon Labour’s dire reputation under Newman, whoever is eventually elected for the party seems consigned to at least four years in opposition to the Conservatives.
According to Labour sources, those not seeking re-selection include two respected ward councillors in Robert Canning (Waddon) and Pat Clouder (Thornton Heath).
Canning will stand down from the council with a relatively unsullied record: in October 2020 he was the only Labour councillor who did not vote that they had “confidence” in the leadership of Newman and Hall. Every other Labour councillor duly followed their party whip that evening – just weeks before the council’s bankruptcy was confirmed.
Meanwhile, despite previous indications that they might stand again, in the end, neither Paul Scott nor Alison Butler submitted the necessary forms.
Butler was Newman’s deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for the Brick by Brick fiasco and the scandal of Regina Road council flats, while her husband, Scott, was the controversial figure who dominated the council’s planning process for six years.
Local Labour officials’ task of fielding competent candidates with real voter appeal is further complicated by the party’s perfectly reasonable rules on gender balance. These rules insist on at least one woman being put forward as a candidate in all multi-member wards.
Which is fine, when you have plenty of capable women candidates putting themselves forward.
Sources suggest that Labour has received applications to stand in 2022 from just 29 women members. Croydon Council has 28 wards to contest.
It is not an altogether new problem: in 2017, during the last Labour selection process, the local party had almost run out of approved women candidates even before they reached the end of their list of safe or winnable seats.
As a consequence, when the members in New Addington North came to select their two candidates, there was only one woman to pick from, and thus Felicity Flynn was guaranteed a place on the council for four years.
What do you mean, Felicity who?
- Inside Croydon welcomes contributions from soon-to-be-former Labour councillors about why they have chosen not to stand again. Or from those among the 40 who in October 2020 voted their complete confidence in Newman and Hall, to make their case why they think they deserve to be re-elected
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
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Read more: Grassroots Labour Party members in calls to sack David Evans
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