Newman backers say they want to be Labour’s Mayor candidate

Next week marks one year since the council was forced to declare itself effectively bankrupt. For some senior Labour councillors, it’s almost as if they played no part in the borough’s financial collapse.
By STEVEN DOWNES

Mayor candidate: Manju Shahul-Hameed, here with her former mentor, Tony Newman

Three members of Tony Newman’s council cabinet that bankrupted the borough now think that they could become the first executive Mayor of Croydon.

Councillors Callton Young, Manju Shahul-Hameed and Alisa Flemming all submitted applications to be selected as the Labour Party candidate for the mayoral election being held next May, senior sources within the local party have confirmed.

Others known to have applied for Labour mayoral candidate selection are Val Shawcross, the former London Assembly Member and Deputy Mayor, Donna Murray-Turner, a minority rights activist, and Jamie Audsley, another councillor who served under Newman in a minor position.

The deadline for applications under the Labour Party’s tight-turnaround selection system was on Monday, and while the borough’s three constituency Labour parties and the local Co-operative Party are expected to hold nomination meetings over the next week, Labour’s London Region, which is running the process, has yet to published a confirmed list of runners and riders for a race which will be determined by members’ votes next month.

Croydon’s Conservatives announced last month that their dull and uninspiring leader at the Town Hall, Jason Perry, would be their candidate for mayor.

Mayor candidate: Callton Young, left, out delivering leaflets against having a mayor. Now he thinks he can be the mayor

At last month’s mayoral referendum, all 28 wards in the borough voted in favour of moving to the mayoral system.

All three cabinet members now seeking to run as Labour candidate for mayor also campaigned enthusiastically against the change in governance system.

According to one Katharine Street source, putting up someone as a candidate who had been part of the Labour team that saw the council issue a Section 114 notice last year, when they had effectively bankrupted the borough, “would be the ultimate act of political self-harm”.

They said, “Are these people really so arrogant? Do they really have no sense of self-awareness? Or shame?”

Under Newman, Shahul-Hameed was widely recognised as ineffectual when cabinet member for business. There has been a steady decline in the local economy throughout the past decade, most notably evidenced by the state of the town centre and the collapse of the Westfield deal to redevelop the Whitgift Centre.

Mayor candidate: it took £30m to salvage children’s services under Alisa Flemming

Shahul-Hameed is now cabinet member for “communities, safety and business recovery”; last year, when handed millions of pounds from the government in covid emergency support grants for Croydon businesses on her watch, the council couldn’t even give away free money.

Flemming appeared to be a particular favourite under Newman, untouchable, even escaping the sack after presiding over a damning Ofsted report over the council’s “inadequate” children’s services department, which the inspectors deemed to be a danger to the youngsters in its care.

The council eventually dragged children’s services out of its failed status, but only after throwing £30million at the department over less than three years – the kind of spending which some suggest led to the collapse of the Town Hall’s finances.

For Flemming’s potential selection as Labour’s mayoral candidate, timing could be key. Ofsted inspectors were back at Fisher’s Folly in September, this time to check how Croydon’s SEND service is performing. Their report is supposed to be made public in the next fortnight, and it is not expected to be good news.

Young, who has an OBE after a 35-year career in the civil service, announced his application for selection to a meeting of Croydon South CLP on Tuesday night. His decision has surprised many members.

Mayor candidate: Jamie Audsley,  already rejected as a councillor candidate

Since the S114 notice in November 2020, Young has been promoted to the important role as cabinet member for “resources and financial governance”, effectively replacing Simon Hall as the cabinet member for finance.

Last week, the current council leader, Hamida Ali, ruled herself out of mayoral considerations on the grounds that she is far too busy trying to fix the Town Hall’s finances for the distractions of a selection campaign. Such a consideration does not appear to bother the equally busy Young, who as well as overseeing £38million-worth of cuts to next year’s budget, last week pushed through the deal to flog off the Croydon Park Hotel for around £10million less than Newman and Hall got the council to pay for it in 2017.

Murray-Turner confirmed last week that she would be a candidate for mayor, issuing a late-night Twitter video which, perhaps oddly, did not mention the Labour Party at all.

During the summer, Murray-Turner was telling friends and followers that she had the support of the borough’s two Labour MPs, Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones. Party insiders suggest that Reed has shifted his support to Flemming, and now wonder whether Murray-Turner might be considering standing as an independent.

That might be the last resort for Audsley, too. Audsley is another current Labour councillor who worked under Newman and – like Young, Flemming and Shahul-Hameed – just a year ago voted that they had full confidence in his leadership.

Snubbed by Labour previously over the selection for candidates for the London Assembly, Audsley has already been rejected as a suitable candidate to seek re-election as a councillor next year. With the same London Region party machine being in charge of the Croydon mayoral selection process, few give the erstwhile Bensham Manor councillor any chance of getting on to the Labour candidate shortlist.

Read more: Former City Hall chief Shawcross enters Croydon Mayor race
Read more: Croydon votes 4-to-1 in favour of having directly elected mayor
Read more: Mayoral referendum: how Croydon voted, ward-by-ward


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Alisa Flemming, Callton Young, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jamie Audsley, Jason Perry, Manju Shahul Hameed, Sarah Jones MP, Section 114 notice, Steve Reed MP, Val Shawcross and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Newman backers say they want to be Labour’s Mayor candidate

  1. Tim Rodgers says:

    Surely Val Shawcross is the only viable candidate for Labour?

    There needs to be demonstrable distance between the old administration and the new Mayor.

  2. Although part of the council that voted that they had confidence in Teflon Tone, it’s worth looking at why Audsley hasn’t been successful in other races. I first noticed Jamie as a Labour councillor who tried to speak out when the notorious inadequate Ofsted rating for Children’s services was released.

    His campaigning isn’t just repeating the phrase “Fat Cat” over and over but involves him communicating with locals on what could be done to revive Croydon.

    Maybe the Labour party need to think about who might be popular with the general public rather than in their own circle and attract back the Labour supporters it’s lost a long the way.

    • It really would be good, if before posting cheerleader comments, you took off your rose-tinted specs and checked the facts.

      Audsley was not the only Labour councillor to speak out about the disgraceful Ofsted report. When the mayoral referendum campaign took place, Audsley duly toed the party line, just as he had done 10 months earlier when he voted his confidence in Tony Newman.

      He’s the rebel who’s always too timid, or too late, to rebel.

      He has, after all, previously declared that “I’m not cut out to be a politician”, which is something with which many would agree.

      The trouble with that is that any “campaigning” is just so much hot air, with an inability to deliver anything resembling the change he suggests he supports.

      Only Jamie Audsley, for instance, could organise a “community discussion” session on air quality in Croydon at which no mention of the Beddington incinerator is considered, or allowed.

      Well-intentioned, maybe. Misdirecting, definitely.

  3. A mayor for Croydon should be engaging, quick thinking, a great communicator, passionate about the borough, resilient, experienced and responsive to the needs of businesses and residents.

    Tony Newman opposed the idea of a Mayor because he knew he had none of the above attributes. And the electorate new it too.

    As far as I can see, the Labour mayoral candidates revealed so far also lack the above attributes; apart from Jamie Audsley, I haven’t heard of any of them and there’s a reason for that.

    Val Shawcross is Labour’s exception.

    I advise the local Labour Party to get behind VS and stop taking advice from Steve Reed MP OBE, who’s clearly clueless about most things.

    I’m disappointed Leader Ali has removed herself from the race. If you can’t stand as Mayor of your borough, you shouldn’t be its council leader.

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