The Town Hall Labour group, shellshocked after last Thursday’s massive rejection of their status quo stance at the mayoral referendum and still reeling from a series of resignations, suspensions and selection blocks, faces another rats-in-a-sack internal election tomorrow night.
Jerry Fitzpatrick, the genial retired lawyer who took over as group chief whip earlier this year, has stood down from that position with immediate effect, it is understood on health grounds.
This has prompted a contest between two councillors from South Norwood ward: Newman’s Nark (“Thirsty” Clive Fraser, chief whip just six months ago and bidding to take the group back to the bad old days) or Steve’s Snitch (Louis Carserides, being pushed forward to strengthen further MP Steve Reed’s grip over the council).
The choice is so unpalatable, some of Labour’s 41 councillors are considering not voting at all.
“Now I know how Hobson felt,” said one.
This will be the first meeting of the Labour group since the referendum result, and is likely to include some recriminations and sniping over the ill-conceived campaign – “bad politics”, as it was described by Blairite grandee Lord Adonis – and the £20,000 or so of campaign funds that were squandered just months before activists will be called up to help persuade the Croydon public to vote Labour in the 2022 Town Hall elections.
Few sitting Labour councillors are expected to take such a benign position as that adopted on Friday by their deputy leader, Stuart King.
“Last night was a clear and decisive outcome from every part of our borough to be accepted and respected,” King tweeted on Friday, in what many interpreted as a first step towards declaring his own candidacy to run for Croydon mayor. Friends of King have gone to lengths to deny that the former Labour parliamentary candidate has any ambition in that respect.
Despite all claims of openness and transparency, the Labour group loathes having news of its internal elections, such as tomorrow night’s, aired in public. This despite more than £12,000 per year of public money, in special responsibility allowances, being at stake – albeit only until next May.
The majority group’s chief whip receives a total of £23,813 for their task of ensuring all Labour councillors vote in the manner that they are instructed, a tidy amount to supplement Fraser’s Lambeth council official’s pension, and a considerable boost to Carserides’ salary of around £28,000 for working as Reed’s parliamentary assistant at Westminster.
If, as expected, “Steve’s Snitch” does get the nod, then Reed’s control of the Labour Party across the borough will tighten further, despite his disastrous handling of the referendum campaign.
- Meanwhile, news that another sitting Labour councillor has decided not to stand for re-election in May next year. Shafi Khan, who has been a Croydon councillor since 1994, has apparently also decided not to seek re-selection in his Norbury and Pollards Hill ward.
Read more: After defeat, pressure mounts on ‘lame duck’ council leader
Read more: Reed tells nation what he won’t tell Croydon: trust the people
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
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