While the two local newspapers have long ago abandoned having a proper, physical presence in the borough, Croydon is now the home of a national newspaper, one which Labour politician Tony Benn once described as “the best national newspaper in Britain”.
The Morning Star has moved from offices in Hackney to Ruskin House on Coombe Road.
The move was in part precipitated by new, remote-working methods adopted during the covid-19 lockdown, and has also been slowed because of the pandemic, with 30-odd staff at yet to make take the full step into south London and their new home.
Ruskin House has a century-long association with the progressive movements in British politics.
The Georgian townhouse close to Park Lane had formerly been the home of an Italian vice-consul and a private prep school. It was purchased in 1966 and officially opened in 1967 by the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and today is the headquarters of the Communist Party of Britain and Croydon’s Trade Union and Co-operative organisations.
Geraint Davies, the MP for Croydon Central until 2005, had his offices in the building, and the Croydon Labour Party remains among its regular users for meetings, talks and rallies, though, controversially, one local Labour official decided unilaterally in 2017 to move its staff out of the building.
The Morning Star is taking up two rooms on the first floor of Ruskin House, which has had new fibre broadband fitted for the purpose, and where the newspaper says will be furnished with, among other items, the desk of Harry Pollitt, the leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain for much of the 20th Century.
“With the option of home working now available to all our staff, we are confident that the smaller office space will help put the paper on a more stable financial footing without compromising the quality of our journalism,” the newspaper said when announcing its move in July.
“You can rest assured that we will, as always, be alongside you in the struggle for peace and socialism, reporting the news the capitalist papers decline to print.”
The move could offer the Morning Star the scoops on many Croydon Labour selection decisions, with many meetings of the borough’s three constituency Labour parties still being held in the ground-floor Nelson Mandela Room. The use of the Ruskin House bar and pool table is not expected to be affected.
In a recent speech given by the newspaper’s editor, Ben Chacko, explained the circumstances behind the move, “The pandemic has meant big changes at the Morning Star, the long-term consequences of which are not all yet clear…
“The lockdown precipitated a crisis for us, too: a collapse in shop sales and an end to the Labour movement conferences, marches and meetings that provide our advertising revenue and many additional sales…
“We were also forced into huge and rushed changes to the production process. A couple of weeks’ notice before the national lockdown was used to consult with our former production editor and devise a means of shutting down the newsroom and producing the paper with all staff working from home.
“This required building remote server access and giving staff a crash course in new communications technology to communicate in real-time as we would in the office.
“There were multiple hiccups and near-disasters in the early days of this process, but over time we overcame them, and the Morning Star is still being largely produced remotely.
“This combined with the end of our lease of William Rust House, so the paper has moved its offices to smaller premises in Ruskin House, Croydon. These offices are not yet ready for staff to work from, but even when they are, they are too small to accommodate the 30-odd employees who used to work from William Rust House.
“A more flexible working model will apply in future, with the office available for staff who need to use it but most work on most days being based at home.”
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