Lewis gets another chance as selection process grinds to halt

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The party’s membership has dropped by 50% in some wards since 2020, and officials didn’t have enough women applicants to complete their selection process in what was supposed to be a target ward. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

But New Addington didn’t love him: ‘Shitshow’ Lewis tries his luck again in Norbury tonight

While the official party news website, LabourList, is today reporting that several London boroughs are struggling to select candidates for May’s local elections, here in Croydon the party’s organisation is creaking under the strain of trying to fill the full 70 roster of candidates to represent the party in less than four months’ time.

As Inside Croydon reported exclusively last week, Croydon Labour’s paid borough organiser quit his job in December after a dispute over election strategy, leaving the local party without its one full-time staffer and with the clock ticking down towards election day on May 5.

Now, in two Croydon wards, including target seat South Croydon, selection meetings are having to be re-staged.

In South Croydon, the process ground to a halt before Christmas when the local party ran out of approved women candidates.

Art work: Newman numpty Ollie Lewis failed to get re-selected in his own ward

In Labour-held Norbury and Pollards Hill, a second selection meeting is to be held tonight after John Wentworth – MP Steve Reed’s former election agent – pulled out as a candidate last month citing health issues. With one vacancy to fill, tonight represents a second – or possibly third or even fourth – chance at staying on the council for Newman numpty Oliver “Shit Show” Lewis,

Lewis is Labour’s cabinet member in charge of running down the borough’s arts, closing libraries and swimming pools and ignoring sports clubs.

In November, he was dumped by disgruntled Labour members in New Addington South, where he had held a safe-ish council seat since 2014. Applications to be a candidate in other wards, including in Addiscombe East, where Lewis actually lives, were rejected by members’ meetings there, too.

But Lewis has somehow scrambled on to the shortlist in Norbury and Pollards Hill, alongside Matt Griffiths, Sajit Haneefa and another otherwise de-selected sitting councillor, Sherwan Chowdhury.

Chowdhury’s de-selection in Norbury Park ward is both tinged with poignancy and a potential constitutional crisis.

Soured: Croydon’s ceremonial mayor Sherwan Chowdhury

The affable Chowdhury has been a councillor since 2006, and this is supposed to be his year as the borough’s ceremonial mayor. So losing the delayed Norbury Park selection shoot-out (to Steve Reed supporter Appu Dharmodaran) will obviously have soured his time in the civic ermine.

But come election time, the ceremonial mayor also has an important role to play. In the event of a tie in the number of councillors elected – and a 35-35 result, even now, is not entirely impossible – under the council’s constitution it is the ceremonial mayor who has a casting vote and might thereby give Labour a notional majority in the Town Hall chamber.

However, if Labour fails to re-select its ceremonial mayor and he is not elected as a councillor on May 5, then… well, no one’s quite certain what happens next, although with an executive Mayor being elected at the same time, the matter may be rendered academic.

Given Croydon Labour’s rotten recent record in running the council, the borough’s residents probably will not be reassured at the party’s senior officials’ bungling over their own internal selection processes.

Under Labour equality rules, in multiple seat wards, the first candidate selected must always be a woman. Which created a problem in South Croydon ward when, after all the safest Labour wards had had their pick of the good (and some not-so-good) women comrades to go on the ballot paper, there were no more women left. At least, that’s what the local party officials thought.

The problem has arisen not least because of the drastic fall in the number of paid-up party members in Croydon. According to local party sources, member numbers are down by as much as 50 per cent in some wards since 2019, and even more down on the period of “peak Corbyn” two years earlier, when platoons of keen and eager members of Momentum were out on the borough’s streets successfully campaigning to get Sarah Jones elected as MP for Croydon Central. 

There’s almost a tinge of sympathy for the two men who South Croydon ward members did manage to select, Josh Andrew and Tareeq Hafeez.

South Croydon ward – mostly what used to be Croham ward – is held by the Conservatives, with one of its councillors being Tory leader, and elected Mayor candidate, Jason Perry. So clearly, capturing South Croydon, which includes a large chunk of Croydon Central parliamentary constituency since the 2018 boundary change, would represent a bit of a coup for Labour.

Two’s company, three’s a …: Labour officials have so far only selected two out of three candidates for Croydon South

Andrew and Hafeez have doughtily been out in the December dark, wind and rain trying to introduce themselves to the electorate in the Conservative-held ward, putting out jolly Christmas messages on social media and hoping no one would notice that it is a three-seat ward and they seemed to be a woman down.

Perhaps unhappily for them, Inside Croydon, of course, has noticed.

But now it turns out that there was one last woman Labour member left. In a note sent to ward members in the past week,  an official told them, “You will recall that at the previous selection meeting it was not possible to select a female candidate as it was believed that Yasmin Dubash, who had been shortlisted, had withdrawn.”

Now, as if by magic, Dubash has been discovered not to have withdrawn, and it was all due to “a misunderstanding”, caused because the candidate in question couldn’t turn up for the selection meeting. Dubash will be anointed as the South Croydon ward Labour woman candidate next Tuesday.

Croydon Labour has yet to conduct any “selections” for 11 other, Tory-held wards around the borough. They’ve only this week started to seek volunteers to have their names put forward as “paper candidates” for what are regarded, by party officials, as unwinnable wards not worth even pretending to try to contest.

“The Local Campaign Forum would like to ask Labour members to consider putting their names forward in these wards so that the Labour Party and Labour values are represented in every single ward in Croydon at the council elections,” an email to members said.

And this from the very same people who block or de-select sitting councillors who have the audacity to call for reform of the way Croydon’s rotten borough is run, or who dare to speak to journalists.

LabourList is reporting that there have also been selection issues in Labour-controlled Lewisham, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Brent and Southwark, with officials expressing “concerns over the delay and its potential impact on their success in the local elections”.

One organiser told LabourList: “Our opposition are out campaigning with candidates already in place for months – we don’t even know when our selections will begin. We are having to plan out literature to be sent out without knowing when we will have candidates to put in them.”

And the website reports, “Several members have reported poor communication from Labour’s regional head office in London, which oversees local processes. One source in Southwark said the LCF received no answer for weeks from region when it asked them to approve the timetable proposed by the local party.”

Slow going: Labour’s Amy Fode

It is suggested that a serious data breach of Labour member details has also delayed this clusterfuck of a selection process, which in London is being overseen by the party’s regional director, Amy Fode, a Blairite associate of Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE.

Fode is thought to have approved the blocking of Bensham Manor councillor Jamie Audsley and to have had a role in the re-panelling of Waddon councillor Andrew Pelling.

The loss of members, in Croydon and across the capital, is also hitting Labour through reduced subscription income. Some reports earlier this week suggested the Labour Party nationally, under General Secretary David Evans, may be on the brink of bankruptcy.

LabourList reports today, “Some Labour activists have speculated that financial pressures may have impacted selections… Labour offered voluntary redundancies to its staff last year in a cost-cutting exercise, and members have voiced concerns that the party in London has been left understaffed as a result.”

There are 1,833 council seats across London’s 32 boroughs that will be contested on May 5. In 2018, Labour won 1,123 (41 in Croydon), the Tories 511 (29 in Croydon).

Read more: The Audit Report: ‘Tony Newman always has been a coward’
Read more: The Buck stops here: Labour campaign disarray after fixer quits
Read more: Conflicts of interest, incomplete contracts, unlawful payments

Become a Patron!

About insidecroydon

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, Addiscombe East, Croydon Central, Croydon South, Jamie Audsley, London-wide issues, New Addington, Norbury, Norbury Park, Oliver Lewis, Sarah Jones MP, Sherwan Chowdhury, South Croydon, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lewis gets another chance as selection process grinds to halt

  1. Ian Ross says:

    Labour has little enough talent as it is without hobbling it yet further by mindless quotas.

  2. Bob Bayliss says:

    Given Labour’s track record locally and the Conservatives’ current unpopularity nationally, the May council/mayoral elections in Croydon might fairly be billed as the resistible force vs the moveable object.

    I wonder how low the turnout will be?

  3. How come Oliver Lewis gets a helping hand while Jamie Audsley and Andrew Pelling are thrown on the scrap heap at the behest of Labour’s kangaroo court?

Leave a Reply