CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The target of an anti-democratic disciplinary process has made it clear that his party’s pursuit of him is damaging him, while further de-selections of council candidates are threatened. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Andrew Pelling, the Labour councillor threatened with deselection for the apparently heinous crime of having been in contact with Inside Croydon, says that the bitter recriminations and disruption caused by the party’s disciplinary process has had a damaging impact on his health.
And Inside Croydon has learned that there could be at least two other party members, both democratically selected to stand as candidates at the May 2022 Town Hall elections, who are now being subjected to similar “double jeopardy” reviews by Labour officials.
Pelling is in his second spell as a local councillor, representing Waddon which together with Robert Canning and Joy Prince they won from the Tories in 2014. Waddon is the only ward in the whole of the Croydon South constituency to have Labour councillors.
Pelling joined Labour in 2011 after previously having been the Conservative MP for Croydon Central between 2005 and 2010, as well as the borough’s first member of the London Assembly, and serving as a Tory councillor for 24 years, including a spell as the leader of their Town Hall group.
It is widely known that Pelling suffered with mental health issues following the end of his parliamentary career, which was ended in controversial circumstances.
In a comment posted on this website, Pelling says that this latest threat of de-selection, “impacts on me personally, too”.
Pelling writes, “Actually getting rather serious, it’s damaged my health.”
He adds, “I have been subjected to Orwellian investigations into my relations with iC. It still goes on.
“It’s just an Alice in Wonderland world where my candidature for Labour has been rescinded based on ‘evidence’ of five openly available free press articles in iC themselves openly penned by other people. The Labour party locally seems to be doing a poor Alyaksandr Lukashenka impression…
“It’s just peculiar that I am recalled from my Labour candidature in Waddon for allegedly talking to iC. I confess that I do speak to iC. Talking to the media is what politicians do.
“Banning those who talk to iC is more vital apparently than being a good councillor putting Waddon and its residents first. More important than asking pertinent questions at scrutiny. Of greater concern, too, than [the] serious money that comes from chairing a Croydon Pension Fund that’s outperformed local government pension funds by making one good call after another and made £787.9million (up 93 per cent) since I started chairing it. £390,000 a day made, every single day, since March 2016.
“The reality is that Inside Croydon is the only body reporting on the council and Croydon public life in detail. It’s also the only Croydon organisation actually consistently holding the council to account.
“Freedom of speech should be what we stand for as British people. We should value the press.
“I kind of presumed when I joined Labour over 10 years ago that Labour was a party with liberal values. In Croydon, though, the Labour Party can, on occasion, betray a nasty authoritarian, intolerant streak in its makeup.
“The infantile formal boycotting of iC continues by Labour, the council leader and the council’s press office.”
Pelling used his comment to make another money-saving suggestion for the council, as a means to avoid removing Council Tax Support from thousands of the borough’s most vulnerable households, as the Labour-run council under leader Hamida Ali seems determined to do next year.
Pelling describes the continuing generous spend on the council’s propaganda department as “a pathetic, sad tragedy”.
“There is hardly any other local press for the council press office to talk with,” Pelling writes, “so it’s just odd how there are not cuts [in the press office] when the council is axing services and hacking away at benefits for those in need. That’s an easy early saving for an incoming Mayor.
“If you are employing someone to talk to the local press who is doing that job by resolutely not speaking to the press and just issuing press releases that aren’t sent to the press, that person is frankly redundant.
“It’s a pathetic, sad tragedy that that money is not being used to pay for benefits for the needy of Croydon instead. The council intends from April 1 to axe £5.7million a year going to needy council taxpayers. An example of this would be a young lower-paid carer of a long-term sick parent seeing a £120 a month cut in support.
“For Labour Croydon, paying someone to boycott iC is a higher priority.”
Pelling reveals that the Labour group at the Town Hall under the discredited former leader Tony Newman passed a number of motions in private condemning “the misogynistic hate site”.
Pelling asks, “What good does that do?”
And Labour councillors have been ordered not to retweet Inside Croydon content. “This ban on retweeting has generally been observed on pain of party discipline,” Pelling says.
“However we are very encouragingly seeing people break that line, including the chief whip [Clive Fraser]. I think this comes from the good influence of Val Shawcross.” Shawcross was named earlier this month as Labour’s candidate in next May’s Croydon Mayoral election.
Pelling refused to attend the kangaroo court of a re-panelling interview which was arranged earlier this month by Labour’s Local Campaign Forum, ostensibly to look into allegations that he had been involved in five articles published on this website.
He has since then been told that the LCF may review the process, but not until after January 1 – providing a sort of “Christmas truce” over the dispute.
Sources close to Pelling suggest that he has received further warnings from Joel Bodmer, the chair of the LCF and stooge of Progress MP Steve Reed OBE, instructing him not to make further public comments about his situation.
The attempt to gag Pelling included notification that officials will scroll through his social media looking for references to Pelling’s preferred description, “rescinded”. Pelling has continued to tweet using the hashtag #rescinded.
But Bodmer and his party officials may yet be creating even more re-selection work for themselves.
Back in the summer Jamie Audsley, the Bensham Manor councillor and, like Pelling, a strong supporter of a switch to the Mayoral system, was blocked from being re-selected to stand next May on the basis that his blatant support for a change in the way the council is run was not made obvious enough.
Now, party sources suggest that Bodmer and his LCF thought police are also rowing back on the selections as candidates of other Labour members who publicly supported the campaign to switch to a Mayoral system.
With Labour’s selection process effectively stalled because they have run out of women candidates, and 24 out of their 41 councillors from January 2020 having already quit, are standing down or having been de-selected, Bodmer could face a busy few weeks finding suitably convincing replacement candidates who all meet Blairite Reed’s apparently rigorous demands.
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