REFERENDUM COUNTDOWN: Croydon’s Labour politicians continue to tie themselves in knots by opposing something which just happens to be their own party’s policy. WALTER CRONXITE, Political Editor, reports on a keynote speech made at the party’s Brighton Conference
The inherent contradictions, as well as the blatant hypocrisy and sheer idiocy, of Croydon’s Labour councillors deciding to oppose a Blairite policy – the introduction of a directly elected mayor – are being laid bare all too readily with the borough-wide referendum on the subject just a week away.
Helping to unravel the position taken by Newman’s numpties at the Town Hall is none other than “Keith”, the leader of the Labour Party himself. And Sir Keir Starmer is being ably aided and abetted by Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South (delete to taste).
The decision of some Labour councillors to oppose a change from the “strong leader” system, which was so amply discredited by Tony Newman and his disastrous six years in charge at the Town Hall, was always going to be a tad awkward after 21,000 residents signed a petition asking for the whole borough to be given an opportunity to vote on the matter, especially as those petitioners had been supported by one of Croydon’s three Constituency Labour Parties.
Worse still was the fact that as Starmer’s front-bench spokesman on the matter, having directly elected mayors is actually a policy which Reed is supposed to proselytise.
And last night, at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Reed did just that.
In a thousand-word speech, the shadow communities and local government secretary made the argument for greater devolution of power to the nation’s communities, allowing them to “make the change they want to see”.
Like having a directly elected mayor, perhaps?
Or is this just what Reed advocates for anywhere other than Croydon?
“Keir Starmer has made clear that we will only build a fairer Britain if we open up power. That’s why the next Labour government will power up Britain with the most radical programme of devolution our country has ever seen,” Reed said. Presumably meaning everywhere, except in Croydon.
“We will make sure people up and down this country can take back control of their own destinies,” said Reed, meaning people everywhere other in Croydon, where their Labour councillors clearly know what’s best for them…
Reed then invited the Labour Conference audience to “take a look at our town centres”, which probably isn’t such a good idea when you are the MP for an area that has been waiting for a decade for a £1.4billion town centre redevelopment that is now never going to happen.
“Labour won’t let our high streets die,” Reed promised, presumably hoping no one in the audience has visited Croydon’s Whitgift Centre recently.
Reed promised to replace business rates “with a new, modern system of business taxation fit for the 21st century”. He even gave an undertaking to “…make sure developers work together with local communities to revive our town centres”. This might seem a little odd to those who recall that when Westfield and Hammerson were pulling the plug on their Croydon scheme, little was heard from Reed on the matter.
Reed has been MP for the safe Labour Croydon North seat for almost 10 years now, though he continues to hark back to his “glory days” when he was a poster boy for Blairite “co-operative councils” at Brixton Town Hall. Many of those in Lambeth dealing with the legacy of Reed’s developer-friendly approach to council estates and redevelopment might take issue with their former council leader’s notion of “co-operation”.
“From my time as a council leader, I know that regeneration works best when councils, communities and developers work together,” Reed said. “That’s how we will build the genuinely affordable new homes people need.”
Reed has put himself to the fore of Croydon’s Labour councillors’ efforts to oppose having a directly elected mayor, the clamour for which has arisen after seven years of the borough’s suburbs being subjected to massive overdevelopment by the Labour-controlled council under his mate, Tony Newman, and mate’s mate, Paul Scott.
But speaking to the Labour faithful in Brighton, Reed said, “The Conservatives want to gag residents and let their developer donors bulldoze local neighbourhoods. We’ll stop this in its tracks.”
And over planning issues, Reed promised, “Labour will put local people in the driving seat by guaranteeing them a say over where they live.” Unlike, many might say, Croydon, where residents’ concerns have been routinely ignored by the council’s planning department for years.
“Only Labour understands you can’t spread prosperity out without pushing power down… But here’s the difference between our party and the Conservatives. We trust people; they don’t.” Oh dear…
“Public services work best when local people have a bigger say… Put simply: people power works.” Oh dear, dear, dear…
While all of this was going on, cheering from the sidelines was Reed’s parliamentary aide, Louis Carserides, a recently elected Croydon councillor.
Having spent most of the past month – presumably while earning his generous parliamentary salary – Carserides has been plastering his social media with all sorts of (mostly demonstrably false) reasons why a directly elected mayor (which is Labour policy remember) is a very bad idea.
So imagine the surprise when Carserides greeted his boss’s address to the Fabian Society by tweeting, “the next Labour government will give people the power to take ownership over the decisions that impact their lives”.
Such as, perhaps, taking ownership over the way their local council is run?
Trying to hold two opposing positions, depending on whether you are addressing a Croydon audience or whether you are speaking to a broader group of people, is obviously full of risks. As Reed discovered when he rolled up last week to speak on BBC Radio London and had to preface his anti-mayor position by telling the capital that he is not anti-mayor.
In Brighton, Reed found himself effectively being trolled by his own party leader, when Starmer celebrated the success of Labour’s campaigns to get mayors elected in Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and in London, when he tweeted to his 1.1million followers, “Our brilliant metro mayors”. All of whom, of course, had been directly elected…
Perhaps, in the final week of campaigning, DEMOC, the campaign of residents’ associations, a CLP and, yes, many Croydon Tories, might want to use the following quotes from Reed’s Conference speech in their final push to win over hearts and minds:
“Labour will guarantee people a voice and the power to use it in the workplace, in their communities and over the public services they use… The answers to the problems we face lie in our communities. That’s why Labour will end the deadening over-centralisation of this wasted Conservative decade.
“We will trust people up and down our country with the power they need to shape the communities they want to live in and the lives they want to lead.”
It’s just in the constituency he represents, it would seem, Reed does not trust the people with the power that they need to shape the communities they want to live in and the lives they want to lead.
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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