WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the latest casualties of the council’s financial collapse
Pat Ryan, a Croydon councillor for nearly 30 years, was last night deselected by members at a Labour Party meeting in his home ward of Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood.
Ryan, who is 80 years old, was unable to attend the meeting as he was spending the night in hospital.
But according to eye-witness accounts, even the presence at the meeting of a handful of “entryists” – members of the Open Our Roads lobby group who had joined the Labour Party recently in an effort to support Ryan – was unable to provide him with the votes needed to be Labour candidate in the local elections next May, as he has been at every Town Hall election since 1992.
Ryan’s deselection means that at least half of the 41-strong Labour group who helped to bankrupt the borough under the discredited former leader Tony Newman have now either stood down or been dropped, as their party’s prolonged selection process enters its second month.
Ryan had been a long-time Newman loyalist, serving as the group’s chief whip for many years, and liked to be known as “Mr Crystal Palace”. But in recent times he had become increasingly cantankerous, being reported to the party for his loud and angry conduct at a branch meeting, while also ignoring the whip – a previously unforgivable crime within the party – over the thorny issue of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood branch was under instruction to pick two women candidates for the May 2022 local elections. In the end, they chose three.
Patsy Cummings, just a week after being dumped by South Norwood, scrambled aboard the life raft offered by her home ward to give herself a chance of staying on the council next year, alongside the current CPUN councillor Nina Degrads and Christine Spooner, the branch chair.
When their names appear on the ballot paper in six months’ time, it is believed that it will be the first time in Croydon Council history that Labour has fielded three women candidates in one ward (the Tories recently selected three women for Sanderstead for May 2022). It will certainly be the first time that a single party has selected three black women to stand for the council in one ward.
Ryan is just the latest sitting Labour councillor to be dumped by Labour Party members this week. Last Saturday, the thoroughly useless Felicity Flynn did not even make it past the shortlisting meeting of the ward she is supposed to have served for the past three years, New Addington North.
Flynn, a civil servant who lives in South Norwood and who was first elected to the council in 2018, is the current ceremonial deputy mayor of Croydon, an honorary position usually conferred on councillors for conspicuous or long service. Or just used as a way to shut them up on the backbenches when the leadership can’t think of anything else to do with them.
A measure of the contempt in which Flynn is held within the Labour Party in New Addington is that she failed to receive a single nomination from any members attending the shortlisting meeting.
“She was not mentioned once,” according to one source. “She might as well have not been on the list.”
Flynn had been fortunate to be selected at all in 2017. For the two-seat ward, Labour insisted that at least one of its candidates should be a woman. Flynn was the only woman to apply for the ward…
She might yet, as Cummings did, seek to save her councillor status by trying to get selected in another ward, but there are few remaining “safe” Labour wards remaining to shortlist.
New Addington North’s selection meeting is this morning, when members will choose between Kola Agboola, who was elected to the council in a by-election last May, Ben Taylor (a member of the Jamie Audsley “Revive” group), Sangeeta Thave and Rowenna Davis, though Davis is thought to want to focus on being selected in her home ward of Waddon, which shortlists this week.
Pat Ryan’s old mate (and Progress MP Steve Reed OBE’s election agent), John Wentworth, seems set to return to the council after stepping down four years ago, having been selected on Wednesday night alongside Leila Ben-Hassel for Norbury and Pollards Hill, where another long-standing councillor Shafi Khan, a Town Hall figure since 1994, is retiring.
In Woodside, where the widely despised Newman numpty Paul Scott had decided not to stand again and so created a vacancy, newcomer Amy Foster was selected, ahead of Mike Bonello and council leader Hamida Ali.
And after a fortnight’s hiatus in Bensham Manor ward, where the original selection meeting could not split a tie for the third candidate, sitting councillor Humayan Kabir won a penalty shoot-out with Matt Griffiths.
There are selection meetings scheduled in Addiscombe West later today (where Jerry Fitzpatrick is standing down as a councillor) and Norbury Park tomorrow, while Fairfield (Tuesday), New Addington South (Wednesday), Waddon (Thursday), Addiscombe East and Labour “target” ward South Croydon (both on Saturday) have shortlisting meetings this week.
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