Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on two shock withdrawals from the selection process for next year’s local elections
Croydon’s Labour group is in further disarray this morning after the sudden withdrawal from its candidate selection process of two BAME councillors who have both held senior positions at the Town Hall.
Muhammad Ali, the cabinet member for “sustainable Croydon”, announced ahead of this morning’s ward shortlisting meeting that he would not be putting his name forward to stand for another four-year term in Broad Green.
This follows less than 48 hours after David Wood, until recently also a cabinet member in the cash-strapped council, dropped out of the process at a similar stage in Selhurst.
The abrupt withdrawals of Ali and Wood mean that 16 people who were Labour councillors at the beginning of this year will now not be standing for re-election in 2022 – a drop-out rate of nearly 40 per cent from the scandal-hit Town Hall group.
Wood issued a lengthy letter explaining his reasons, which included the pressure of work in his new job, as an aide to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.
Many within the party locally suspect that Wood’s withdrawal had much to do with some of the scheming going on over candidate selection in Croydon North, much of it orchestrated from the constituency office of MP Steve Reed OBE.
Wood’s notice of withdrawal was addressed to Selhurst branch officials Mohammed Islam and Catherine Wilson. Islam is the current chair of Reed’s Constituency Labour Party and Wilson is a former CLP secretary. Both, as if by magic, are also now on the four-person shortlist for selection in this two-seat, safe(ish?) Labour ward, presumably with Reed’s blessing.
“He jumped before he was pushed,” was how one of his Town Hall colleagues viewed it.
“The day I was first selected to stand for Labour in my home ward remains one of the proudest of my life,” Wood wrote in what amounts to his resignation letter.
“This has not been an easy decision to take on my part. The demands of the new job I began earlier this year have made it increasingly difficult for me to give my role as Selhurst ward councillor the attention that it, and our residents, deserve. As you also know, these pressures are likely to increase over the coming months.”
Wood, who was a deputy cabinet member and then, briefly, placed in charge of the “communities, safety and resilience” brief before last autumn’s post-bankruptcy reshuffle conducted by council leader Hamida Ali, was known to have been frustrated by his demotion.
Notably, in his letter he wrote, “We have been through some of the most difficult times possible for any council, and I cannot help but regret the impact some of our decisions as councillors have had on the residents we all simply wish to serve in good faith.”
In the case of Ali, his withdrawal is seen as much more a response to the complete shitshow Croydon Town Hall and the ruling Labour group has become.
Only elected as a councillor in 2018, TfL worker and union member quickly won the respect and trust of local residents and party colleagues as he went about his councillor duties. But he is known to have become increasingly disillusioned with the way matters at the council, and within the local Labour Party, had been badly handled.
When Bensham Manor councillor Jamie Audsley was blocked from being a 2022 candidate, Ali provided a reference at his appeal.
But Ali has also endured an increasing volume of abuse as he has tried to implement and adapt the borough’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes, including one on his home patch of Broad Green. It is also well-known among colleagues that Ali felt very badly let down by the actions of some of his Labour colleagues for the opportunistic way they undermined the LTN schemes.
It is signal of the unapologetic and unreformed outlook of Newman’s numpties, those Labour councillors who bankrupted the council, that Ali’s two ward colleagues, Stuart Collins, the former deputy leader, and Manju Shahul-Hameed, both cabinet members under discredited former leader Tony Newman, have no shame about seeking reselection for 2022 despite their significant roles in the catastrophe at the council.
In his letter to ward officials to confirm his withdrawal from the selection process today, Ali wrote, “It has been an enormous honour and privilege to represent Broad Green since my election in 2018. I feel proud to represent residents of a ward where I live and where my children go to school and I will continue to serve them in my current role.
“Throughout my last three years I had been fully supported by my wife and I wouldn’t have done this without her. However, with two young children and working full time along with my role as a councillor, it is time to spend more time with my family whilst managing other interests and a full-time job.”
Another councillor said today, “Muhammad is not the kind of person the Labour group in Croydon should be losing.
“It’s looking increasingly obvious that most of the group’s good people are either being blocked or are moving on, sick of the unchanged culture of in the local party.”
Read more: 1 in 4 Labour councillors choose not to seek selection for 2022
Read more: Labour councillor was given ‘no real reason’ for deselection
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
Read more: Grassroots Labour Party members in calls to sack David Evans
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