CROYDON IN CRISIS: A leading Newman Numpty was effectively deselected last night, as he and ceremonial deputy mayor failed even to make it on to his ward’s candidates shortlist; meanwhile, chaos in Norbury Park when Labour organisers book too small a room for selection meeting
Oliver “Shit Show” Lewis, the Labour-run council’s cabinet member responsible for trying to close the borough’s public libraries, signing off on the axing of the Purley Pool and who oversaw the shambles that was the Fairfield Halls “fiasco”, was effectively deselected by party members in New Addington last night.
Labour is laboriously going through a selection process for its candidates to stand in next May’s local elections. Labour has had control of Croydon Town Hall since 2014. But one year on since Tony Newman and his numpties bankrupted the borough, several key players in what has been described as “the biggest local authority failure since they invented local authorities” are certain not to stand for election again.
More than half of those who were Labour councillors this time last year have already been jettisoned, most opting not to bother the voters or the Returning Officer again.
But some notables, such as Lewis, have been scrambling desperately, looking for a political life raft, and failing abjectly.
Lewis, the cabinet member for “culture and regeneration” (perhaps he’s a Doctor Who fan?), was among the first of Newman’s Numpties to start the “Chicken Run”.
In anticipation of the public backlash against Labour’s crass incompetence while in power, Lewis didn’t fancy his chances of being re-elected by voters in New Addington South, which has given him a safe-ish seat since 2014. So the Addiscombe resident has been applying elsewhere in the Labour selection process, to see if he can find refuge in a safer ward.
And so far, that has gone about as well as most of Lewis’s endeavours while at the council: that is, very poorly.
Lewis has become so badly regarded even by fellow party members that at the weekend, he was rejected by members in Addiscombe West, who preferred even Clive “Thirsty” Fraser, after he had been dumped in his own South Norwood ward the week before.
“Thirsty” leapt in to take advantage of the late-ish withdrawal, on health grounds, of the widely respected sitting councillor Jerry Fitzpatrick.
Qualified lawyer Fitzpatrick is about to complete a four-year second spell as a Croydon councillor, having previously served at the Town Hall between 1986 and 2002, which included being deputy leader when Labour first won control of the council in 1994.
Approaching his 70th birthday next year, Fitzpatrick said of his decision to stand down, “It seems like a good time to hand over to a younger person…
“There are many important and ongoing local issues for my successor. In Addiscombe – as in many other parts of London – we have too many families who are unsuitably housed. There are too many examples of both private and social landlords falling down on their responsibilities.”
Following that sound advice, the members in Addiscombe West opted to saddle themselves with pensioner Fraser, who was a councillor in South Norwood while tenants in Regina Road spent four years calling for help and repairs to their “appalling” council flats.
His selection means that “Thirsty” will be standing in the third different ward in three successive local elections.
Addiscombe West’s sitting councillors Patricia Hay-Justice and Sean “Non-Scrutiny” Fitzsimons, have also been selected.
Meanwhile, in New Addington South, another Newman Numpty, Louisa Woodley, had already decided to give up her seat on the Town Hall’s expenses gravy train.
But Lewis’s name was still on the applications in front of the ward’s Labour members ahead of their short-listing meeting, right until the last minute, when the councillor withdrew, citing “personal issues”. “It looks like he’s finally seen the writing on the wall,” said one party source.
Another suggested that Lewis is now pinning all his hopes for his personal political career on the mayoral campaign of Val Shawcross, perhaps hoping for a cushty job in her administration should she win election next May as Croydon’s first executive mayor.
“Maybe he could make the tea in the Mayoral Parlour?” said one cynical source. “Ollie used to caddy for Tony Newman on the golf course. But Val doesn’t play golf, so he’d have to try to make himself useful in other ways, though I’m not sure what they might be.”
Lewis was not the only current Labour councillor to be snubbed last night.
Felicity Flynn, a councillor since 2018 in New Addington North (chosen then because Labour had run out of other women candidates) did not make it on to the four-person shortlist for New Addington South.
Flynn had already been rejected by the ward she’s supposedly represented for the last four years. Sangeeta Thave and Kola Agboola were chosen in a selection meeting in New Addington North on Saturday.
New Addington South is a two-seat ward, and under Labour Party equality rules, at least one of the candidates selected next week has to be a woman. That’s looking as if it will probably be New Addington resident Vicky Newton, after she was shortlisted alongside Julie Setchfield, Ben Taylor and Josh Andrew.
Setchfield was shortlisted in Fairfield ward the night before, and with its selection meeting set for next Tuesday (November 16), 24 hours before New Addington South, it seems likely that she will want to be on the ballot paper for what looks like being a safer Labour seat.
Also shortlisted in three-seat ward Fairfield are Councillor Chris Clark, the chair of the reviled planning committee, plus Gigi Gomez and Jose Joseph.
Mary Croos is another sitting councillor who has failed even to make the shortlist. According to sources present at the Fairfield shortlisting meeting, in another display of top-flight bungling by local Labour officials, when the candidate biographies were handed out, they distributed the CV for Mary Croos’s daughter – also called Mary – rather than the councillor.
What has already been a prolonged selection process that has been plagued by administrative errors has been lengthened further in Norbury Park, which on Sunday became the second Croydon Labour branch forced to postpone a selection meeting in a matter of just a few weeks.
An estimated 60 members turned up for the meeting, easily exceeding the organisers’ expectations.
The small hall they had booked could not cope with the numbers under covid-safe spacing. The meeting was abandoned, and will be rescheduled once a more suitable, larger venue can be arranged.
The avid interest in the selection has been generated by the head-to-head between Sherwan Chowdhury, a councillor since 2006 and the current ceremonial Mayor of Croydon, and Appu Dhamodaran, a member of the Steve Reed clique in Croydon North, where he is secretary of the Constituency Labour Party.
Another, less-worthy, suggestion is that when one side saw the numbers turning up for their opponent, they managed to get the plug pulled for a later date, by which time they may have got their act together and will have better organised their own support. But senior figures within the local party assured Inside Croydon that such conduct would never possibly happen…
The likely selections in Norbury Park also underline a recurring problem with the Labour Party’s well-intentioned but ultimately flawed rules.
As a two-seat ward, at least one candidate needs to be a woman, and Newman Numpty Alisa Flemming appears to have a free run.
Flemming is the cabinet member who oversaw the council’s children’s services fail their Ofsted inspection in 2017, requiring £30million to be spent to put right – overspending from which the council’s finances have never recovered.
Yet she seems likely to be selected unopposed in Norbury Park. “We pretty much ran out of women candidates in the north of the borough,” one embarrassed party source confided.
Over the coming few days, selections are to be held in the last of the currently Labour-held wards, with shortlisting tonight in Waddon (the only ward in Croydon South not held by the Tories), and Addiscombe East on Saturday morning.
After hitting the iceberg 12 months ago and frantically rearranging the deckchairs ever since, the SS Croydon Labour is looking all out of life belts in safe wards for the likes of Ollie Lewis and other Newman Numpties, who have been cast adrift in the wake of the council’s financial collapse.
Read more: Veteran councillor Ryan is deselected while in hospital bed
Read more: Boycotts and resignations in rows over Labour selections
Read more: More Labour disarray as BAME councillors Wood and Ali quit
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