CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The party’s local organiser has quit his job just months before council elections after a row over how much backing to give to Val Shawcross’s Mayoral campaign. And there’s only a short-term plan for a replacement. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon Labour have gone into the New Year without a borough organiser and without much of a campaign strategy, with the local elections now just four months away.
Jack Buck, the local party’s professional (in the broadest use of the word) campaign organiser announced last month that he would be standing down from the job that he has held for seven years.
Labour won control of Croydon Town Hall from the Conservatives in 2014, and in 2017 they landed a notable victory when Sarah Jones won the Croydon Central marginal seat from Tory Gavin Barwell.
In 2018, at the last local elections, Labour won an increased number of councillor seats. But those heady days for Croydon Labour appear over…
Buck announced his decision to quit his job not long after he had been denied permission to present a campaign strategy paper he had prepared for the 2022 local elections, which he had expected to present at a meeting of Labour’s LCF, or Local Campaign Forum. The LCF is chaired by Joel Bodmer, known to be a close associate of Lambeth South MP Steve Reed OBE.
Given the events at the council over the past three years or more, with the financial collapse and “corporate blindness” of the Labour cabinet of Tony Newman, Simon Hall, Paul Scott and Hamida Ali, together with the switch to a Mayoral system of governance in May, Buck is known to have favoured focusing the party’s campaigning resources on the bid to become Croydon’s first executive Mayor by Val Shawcross.
Bodmer blocked this, with a majority of the LCF understood to have supported the approach of diluting campaign resources across all of the winnable councillor wards, as well as the Mayoral campaign.
It is a decision that appears to doom Shawcross’s campaign before it has even had a chance to start.
Just days before he revealed he was quitting his job, Buck announced that he would not be seeking re-selection of his own, as a councillor in Southwark for Faraday ward.
Somewhat perversely, for a councillor representing the heart of a Millwall Football Club-supporting area, given the sensitivities and rivalries, Buck has spent the subsequent few weeks tweeting almost obsessively about his devotion to… West Ham United.
That, though, makes a welcome change from some of Buck’s more controversial political tweets, including one which saw him pictured with a banner that appeared to call for the erasure of the state of Israel.
Buck’s time as Croydon Labour’s professional political fixer, much of it spent based in Sarah Jones’s constituency office, was not without controversy. This included the time when he was shown to have deliberately submitted a council by-election candidate form on behalf of one of his close friends, despite the democratic vote by members in Fairfield ward for another member.
An internal Labour Party investigation criticised Buck by implication, finding “questionable integrity and competence of paid party officers”. But Buck’s employers in the Croydon Labour group at the time – including the discredited council leader, Tony Newman, and his deputy, Stooge Collins – opted to take no disciplinary action, preferring the sweep the scandal under the carpet.
In the past couple of years, Buck lost his fizz: he struggled with the effects of covid and then long covid, spending long periods away from work, including much time in Norway.
In his Twitter resignation announcement, Buck wrote, “So after seven years my time as the Croydon Labour organiser is coming to a close!
“I’m really proud of the winning record I leave behind with three ground-breaking wins in 2017, 2018 and 2019. But it’s time for new adventures!
“Thanks to all my incredible comrades for your love and solidarity.”
That was on December 9, five months before the local elections are due to take place.
Croydon Labour has only started to try to recruit a replacement this week, someone they hope will be in place by the end of January – just three months before election day. They are offering a £33,000 per year position, which will mostly be paid for out of contributions from Labour councillor allowances, making the organiser answerable to the local politicians, rather than to the three constituency Labour parties, who provide the bulk of campaign funds and activists.
Significantly, the job ad does not specify the requirement for the successful applicant to be an accredited organiser – one who would be employed by the national party, whose position would come with a pension and other benefits. This also probably means that the appointee would not have the right to attend every local party meeting, including meetings of the Town Hall councillors’ group.
And the job offers a fixed-term contract only until June this year.
So it does not look as if they are expecting any of those “ground-breaking” election wins on May 5.
- Click here to read the internal Labour Party report into the fixing of the Fairfield ward selection in full
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