Labour members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Not content with bankrupting the borough and then ignoring the will of their members by opposing the move to an elected Mayor, the rump of Newman’s numpties has embarked on a petty vendetta which seems intent on losing them the Town Hall elections next May.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Croydon’s Labour Party, in its latest act of deliberate self-harm, is forcing one of their sitting councillors to undergo a second interview this week that seems likely to lead to their de-selection.

It is one month since Andrew Pelling was democratically selected by an overwhelming majority of party members in Waddon, the ward he has represented since 2014.

This latest move against Pelling has been conducted by a rump of old mates and supporters of Tony Newman, the now-discredited ex-leader of the council, who despite their part in bankrupting the borough and undermining the party’s reputation with the public, somehow still hold considerable influence.

“It’s a desperate act of revenge, part of a vendetta that’s been going on for years,” a Croydon South party member told Inside Croydon today. “They just won’t accept that, on so many issues, Andrew’s judgement has been proved to be sound, while Newman and his mates got things terribly wrong. It’s snide and it’s nasty.”

The move has caused outrage among the party’s rank and file. In a local Labour Party where the breaking of rules and ignoring of the law had become commonplace under Newman’s  leadership, serious questions have been raised over whether party rules have been followed properly in the case of Pelling.

A petition was established overnight supporting Pelling and has already attracted dozens of supporters, some of whom have described the move as “undemocratic” and “Orwellian”, and calling it “an affront to party democracy”.

Waddon councillors Canning, Prince and Pelling

‘Win Waddon, Win the council’: (from left) Cllrs Canning, Prince and Pelling won Waddon from the Tories, but were constantly undermined by Newman

And one party member said, “If they de-select Pelling, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of Labour holding on to Waddon – but they would rather try to settle Newman’s old scores than follow the democratic decisions of party members.

“Something like this will terminally damage the Labour Mayoral campaign, too.”

One petition signatory wrote: “Jamie Audsley, now Andrew Pelling. Who will they come for next?”

Neither Audsley nor Pelling, in their seven-year stints as Labour councillors, ever broke the party whip, an act of loyalty that Newman ill-deserved and which, in private, both have regretted.

But both campaigned in favour of the change of governance system used at the council, from the “strong leader” model so-beloved of Newman and his supporters, to that of a directly elected Mayor. It was Pelling who had proposed supporting the change to his CLP, Croydon South, which backed the DEMOC campaign through to the borough-wide referendum in October when in a stunning snub to the position adopted by Labour, all 28 wards in the borough voted in favour of a change.

But this latest Stalinist-style purge traces its roots much further back in local politics, as Newman and his closest allies, the likes of Alison Butler, Paul Scott and “Thirsty” Clive Fraser, backed by Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE, continue to manipulate Croydon party affairs.

Failure: ex-council leader Tony Newman

In 2014, when Labour won control of the Town Hall from the Conservatives, the word within the campaign then was “Win Waddon, Win the council”, a strategy which proved to be true as Pelling, working closely with fellow candidates Joy Prince and Robert Canning, delivered up the only ward in the Croydon South parliamentary constituency to turn from blue to red.

But Newman’s long-held and undisguised animus towards Pelling saw him delay the Waddon councillor being allowed to make his “maiden” speech in the Town Hall chamber for almost a year – which many observers understood to be based on the insecurities of Newman, who in the past had faced Pelling when he was leader of the Croydon Conservatives, before becoming the Tory MP for Croydon Central.

Newman’s prejudice against Pelling could have cost Croydon Council’s pensioners many millions, too. Pelling was exiled to the Town Hall backbenches, denied any of the more senior roles he might have expected. In the one role he was given, Pelling has managed to double the value of the council pension fund, from £800million to £1.6billion. Newman rewarded this performance by sacking Pelling as chair of the pensions committee. Twice.

In a decision this month of the all-powerful Local Campaign Forum, or LCF, Pelling has been told he must be re-interviewed over concerns that he has dared to have discussions with the media. The LCF is dominated by councillors and former councillors who have remained close to Newman and his clique, and is chaired by Joel Bodmer, a close ally of MP Reed.

Missing from the LCF is the widely respected figure of the left, David White, a retired solicitor and, like Pelling, a member of Momentum. White has been barred from LCF business for three months – in the midst of the selection process – while he endures his own version of Croydon Labour double jeopardy over a handful of tweets sent seven or more years ago, and over which he has been cleared once before.

Uninvited guest: what was Clive Fraser doing at the LCF meeting?

The LCF decision on Pelling was handed down despite the councillor having been passed as an acceptable Labour candidate by a three-person panel in August.

It is understood that issues around Pelling’s whistle-blowing were raised at that original panel interview, with all three members of the panel filing reports approving his candidacy.

Inside Croydon understands that the decision to re-interview Pelling was reached by the LCF when Fraser was in attendance, even though Fraser at that time had no authority to attend Forum meetings.

Today, Croydon South CLP officials have written to Bodmer “addressing concerns over LCF representation and seeking confirmation that due process was followed”.

The petition has been put together by Paul Waddell, a former senior official at Croydon South CLP and a local election candidate in 2018.

While some members of the current CLP executive have expressed their sympathy with their colleagues’  plight, those who have been selected as election candidates have failed to sign it, apparently for fear of the recriminations that they might face in this latest example of Stalinism, south London-style.

The petition states, “Andrew Pelling has been a huge figure in Croydon politics over five decades, in recent years as a committed Labour Party activist and councillor, where he, along with Joy Prince and Robert Canning, won Waddon ward from the Conservative Party in 2014.

“He is popular locally, and an asset to both Croydon South CLP and the borough.

“In being selected, first by the candidate selection panel, and then democratically by Waddon Labour Party members, to fight Labour’s corner to retain Waddon next May, he was to be the sole continuity candidate in this vital swing ward.

“We, the undersigned, feel that Labour Party members and voters, along with party democracy, have been undermined by the decision to rescind Andrew’s candidacy on the basis of being a whistleblower to the local press.

Sign on the dotted line: the pro-Pelling petition has quickly gathered support

“We feel that asking him to re-interview looks like an attempt to legitimise an unfair decision that’s already been made, so we ask the LCF (local campaign forum) to withdraw their request to re-interview, or at worst that the new panel re-instate and reaffirm Andrew’s candidacy.

We had hoped that this sort of behaviour was a thing of the past, and that Croydon Labour would be forging a new way ahead for the borough’s residents, uniting to win in 2022.

“It would be mortifying if unfair decisions, made with a lack of transparency, affected the candidacy of a good man, and reduce the chances of Labour winning in May.”

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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, Andrew Pelling, Clive Fraser, Croydon Central, Croydon South, Joy Prince, Robert Canning, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman, Waddon and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Labour members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling

  1. Croydon Labour party are insane and so self-destructive. I am so glad that I left the borough and I live somewhere that I can now make progress changing society for the better. If politicians are not there to serve the people they should resign. Petty politics, greed and laziness have been the hallmark of this corrupt little administration. It is a betrayal of all that the Labour Party was set-up to do. It is just dirty.

  2. Tony Newman is pulling the levers through empty vessel Clive Fraser. Clive Fraser hasn’t got the backbone to turn his old boss down or the intellectual bandwidth to think for himself.

    Better Fraser looked after the needs of his constituents – some are living in some of the worst council housing in the UK – it was on the National news.

    I’m at a loss to understand why anyone would give Fraser the time of day. His track record says it all.

  3. Richard Dargan says:

    I am disgusted by the treatment that Andrew (and Jamie) have received. It smacks of vindictiveness and does the Labour Party no credit whatsoever.

  4. jackgriffin1933 says:

    As Charlotte above says, “Croydon Labour party are insane”.

    Only on Saturday afternoon, I was talking to a leading figure in a local BID and we agreed that Andrew Pelling was, after Val Shawcross, the best and most obvious (Labour) candidate for Croydon mayor.

    I consider myself non-aligned these days (plague on both their houses; the last person you should vote for is the one seeking election etc etc); but would happily consider him.

    The reaction from the failed incumbents is typical where – as in all walks of life – incompetency abhors competency and seeks to destroy it to avoid unfavourable comparison.

  5. Lewis White says:

    This vindictive action, like the non-selection of Jamie Audsley, is outrageous. I will be writing to Labour HQ to express disgust.

  6. Marzia+Nicodemi+Ehikioya says:

    I wonder if Val Shawcross will intervene to stop this Stalinist show trial to show the strength of her leadership.

    She must be aware her selection was fixed and Councillor Jamie Audsley was barred as he spoke in favour of an elected mayor in Croydon. Labour supports the role of Mayor in other towns. Why not in Croydon?

    Is she going to stand up to the party machine and free herself of the incompetent leadership that has ravaged Croydon? Nobody has been held accountable to date, after all. Where has the money gone?

    The job of Executive Mayor is a difficult one.

  7. Ahmed Y says:

    The Croydon Council Pension Fund performance alone merits him being the leader instead of the incompetent thugs who have caused havoc. . . .resulting in a massive increase in my Croydon Tax bill. Bravo AP – you have my support.

  8. Well done for covering this IC. It seems insane that Croydon Labour don’t seem to give a toss what ordinary people think…

  9. This is outrageous! Andrew is a great ward Councillor and doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. I will let Steve Reed know my views and those of the many other Waddon ward neighbours I have spoken to. We don’t need this local version of the Salem Witch trials when the Borough needs effective and hard working Councillors more than ever.

    • Kevin Croucher says:

      I don’t suppose Steve Reed will be too bothered. He knows that he is in a safe seat and he clearly has ambitions that stretch well beyond Croydon.

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