CROYDON IN CRISIS: Ten minutes of radio featuring a live spat between two very well-paid politicians over why we do, or don’t, need another politician provided a splendid example of the self-serving futility of the borough’s political duopoly. By WALTER CRONXITE, Political Editor
BBC London staged a debate live on air yesterday which was the radio equivalent of two bald blokes fighting over a comb.
In the red corner was Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South. In the blue corner was Croydon South MP Chris Philp.
The discussion was over whether Croydon should stick with the “strong leader” model of Town Hall patronage or have a directly elected mayor, an alternative system that we, here at Inside Croydon Towers, have long ago characterised as #ABitLessShit.
Croydon is staging a borough-wide referendum on October 7 to determine whether to make the switch from one flawed system to another.
The only real shock to emerge from the broadcast, compered by BBC Radio London’s star presenter Vanessa Feltz, was that Blairite Reed made a declaration at the beginning, apparently for those from outside the fetid bubble of Croydon’s politics, to try to extricate himself from a hole of his own making: his opposition to the Blairite policy of directly elected mayors.
The Reed-backed anti-mayor campaign in Croydon has managed to describe the Labour mayors in other London boroughs, such as Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Newham, as “fat cats”, as it has sought to dissemble over the cost of running the mayor’s office and discredit a system which remains the Labour Party’s policy for local authorities.
Which is a tad awks for Reed, who happens to be the Labour parliamentary spokesman for communities and local government.
“I’m not anti the mayoral system,” said Reed, who has spent much of the past month being anti the mayoral system.
“There are examples in London and across the country of mayoral systems that work.
“But also of the other way round… there are mayoral systems that fail.”
Having managed to turn Croydon’s referendum into a vote on Croydon Labour’s time in charge of the council – how’s that going, Steve? – the innate contradictions in Reed’s arguments that he has presented to the Croydon public were at risk of being exposed here when addressing a less pliant, London-wide audience.
“The quality of the leadership is going to be key to this,” said Reed, who spent six years never once noticing that Tony Newman, the “strong leader” at Croydon Town Hall, was a bullying incompetent, and a disastrous leader who bankrupted the borough.
Indeed, Newman’s conduct as leader of Croydon Council was so bad that the discredited former Woodside councillor remains suspended from membership of the Labour Party.
So in the Radio London broadcast, Reed managed to crystallise his opposition to having a directly-elected mayor down to this: we might vote in a mayor who is not very good.
Just like the real risk of voting in a set of councillors who are not very good. Or, indeed, voting in MPs who are not very good.
Having summed up the risks inherent in democracy, Reed claims he prefers a system which does not democratically elect its borough’s leader, but instead allows someone to be appointed by their mates and colleagues, because this, according to Reed, makes it easier to remove them from office.
Which, of course, is far from the truth: in October last year, given an opportunity for a vote of no confidence in Tony Newman, with the council on the brink of bankruptcy, 40 of Croydon’s 41 Labour councillors all voted their complete confidence in the man who decided how much they are to receive in allowances.
If he isn’t “anti-mayor”, it seems that Reed appears to be anti-democracy.
“For me, the main reason I don’t think this is the right system for Croydon right now is primarily one of cost,” Reed said, trotting out the worst excesses of the worst example of a mayor, Lutfur Rahman, to argue against the Labour Party’s policy of having directly elected mayors.
During the brief radio spat, Reed failed to mention the spending excesses of Newman and his numpties at Croydon, an authority which is £1.5billion in debt and where money was no obstacle when Reed’s mates managed to hand £440,000 in a golden handshake to its departing chief executive 12 months ago.
Nor did Reed manage to mention that all the terrible cuts to services – libraries, youth centres, street cleaning – that he listed as being at risk if there is an elected mayor are, in any case, already being planned in Croydon by the current “strong leader”, with £38million-worth of more cuts to come in the next council budget, to make amends for the errors and hubris of the previous “strong leader”.
As we said, #ABitLessShit.
Read more: Reed goes video ga-ga as Labour campaign gets desperate
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
Read more: Reed group fined for slow declaration of £800,000 donations
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