An Addiscombe couple, whose business has cosy links to Labour’s General Secretary David Evans, has shocked and angered party members by distributing a leaflet which tries to pass itself off as official Labour literature.
The efforts of Maddie and Mark Henson to win selection to stand as Labour candidates in Addiscombe East ward at next May’s local elections have seen concerned members raise questions about whether any party rules may have been broken, or whether those likely to vote at tomorrow’s selection meeting might have been misled.
But above all else, those who have seen the self-produced leaflet have remarked how desperately dire it is.
Maddie Henson has been a Croydon councillor since 2014. In 2018, what had been Ashburton became the two-seat Addiscombe East ward and while Henson was re-elected, her then running mate, Caragh Skipper, managed to lose the other seat to Tory Jeet Bains. It was the only Labour-held seat that the party lost in those Town Hall elections.
Henson, a Tony Newman loyalist, has enjoyed a year’s term, and increased allowances, as the ceremonial mayor of Croydon in her time on the council, but even the discredited former council leader never promoted her to more onerous, cabinet-level responsibility.
Mark Henson was also a Labour candidate in 2018, losing in Tory-held Shirley North.
This time round, the Henson household’s masterplan has been known for some time to be some kind of Mr & Mrs dream team. Judging by their leafleting approach, for some members it is more of a nightmare. In six months’ time, they fear that it could see the Conservatives win both Addiscombe East seats on the council.
As one told Inside Croydon, “I had this leaflet put through my letterbox.
“It’s got the Labour rose, it has the house style of a Labour Party leaflet, it is branded as a Labour leaflet.
“But it isn’t a Labour leaflet.”
There is nothing specifically in the rules which outlaws the use of the party logo on candidates’ personal materials when seeking nomination or selection.
However, as one senior figure in the local party told Inside Croydon today, “I think it is inappropriate for the Hensons to issue leaflets which have been deliberately made to look like the ones presented to the public after candidates have been selected.
“The Hensons are using the party logo. They have also presented their names in the style used by the party in official election literature.”
But perhaps even worse than the accusation of “passing off” is the catastrophically poor calibre of the written material contained in the leaflet.
“Maddie has been a loyal member of the Labour group at the Town Hall for nearly eight years. We never heard a peep from her before the council went broke. In fact, I don’t recall her making any criticism since, either.
“But there, on the ‘Maddie and Mark’ leaflet, as the first of their ‘key pledges’ is ‘Better scrutiny of the council’. What does she think she’s been supposed to have been doing for the last eight years?”
Also among the vacuous and banal prose on the leaflet – with its utterly meaningless slogan: “Amplifying Addiscombe” – are gems such as “Support the young and vulnerable people in Addiscombe”, bless, and “Fix the traffic problems within the ward”.
“Good luck with that one,” the clearly irritated ward member said.
“The traffic problems within the ward were caused largely by Maddie’s sometime councillor colleague, Mark Watson, who wanted to make his own street one-way.
“She did nothing about it then, and she’s done nothing about it since.”
The Henson’s family IT business made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that David Evans, the Croydon-based political consultant and former Blair aide appointed by Keir Starmer to be the Labour Party’s General Secretary, had chosen to use Anonyvoter – an online polling system devised by Mark Henson – without ever bothering to go to competitive tender.
The system has been widely criticised by local Labour parties across the country who have struggled to make it work after having had it imposed upon them.
The Addiscombe East selection meeting is due to be held tomorrow, with MaddieandMark, the Croydon conjoined couple of mediocracy, on a shortlist with just three others (plus Appu Dhamodaran, who has already been selected for another ward).
It appears that Maddie Henson, at least, will get selected despite her witless leaflet.
Because of Labour’s selection rules on gender balance, at least one of the two candidates selected must be a woman.
There is only one other woman on the Addiscombe East shortlist, and that is another current councillor, Felicity Flynn, who was regarded as so useless by the New Addington North members that they didn’t even bother shortlisting her in the ward that she was supposed to have represented since 2018.
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