Labour’s dodgy candidate selection process has come under scrutiny once again after the party chose to blame Philip Normal for failing to disclose his “offensive and discriminatory” tweets when he was selected as a councillor in 2017.
It is the latest episode in a tailspin of ineptitude in the Labour Party since Keir Starmer became its leader and appointed Croydon’s David Evans as its General Secretary.
Normal, who in 2020 became the country’s first openly HIV-positive council mayor, resigned as a Lambeth councillor on Thursday following the storm of complaints when his racist, Islamophobic and transphobic historic tweets were highlighted publicly.
But Labour officials now admit that no one bothered to check Normal’s social media history before selecting him to stand in a safe ward at the 2018 local elections.
In Croydon, Labour’s selection process for council candidates in 2022 has been slow and dogged by administrative errors, while also used to conduct a vendetta against some sitting councillors. Other Croydon Labour members, meanwhile, have been subjected to suspensions from the party after officials have trawled through years of their historic social media posts, looking for any snippet to use as an excuse to force them out.
In the case of Normal, Labour has admitted that it conducted no proper checks of his conduct before or during his time as a party member.
In a statement issued to Pink News, a Labour Party spokesperson said that when members apply to stand for candidate selection, “They are required to declare anything that may impact their candidacy or their ability to represent the council and the public as an elected councillor.
“Philip Normal has resigned due to tweets that he did not declare during the process in 2017 and which date from several years before he applied to be a council candidate.
“The Labour Party takes all complaints seriously, and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate action is taken.”
From at least 2009 to 2014, Normal tweeted a raft of remarks that, in an apology he issued on Wednesday, he admitted were “offensive and discriminatory”.
Normal had been a councillor for Oval ward since 2018. There will be no ward by-election to replace Normal because his resignation as a councillor has come within six months of May’s scheduled local elections.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party has issued an admission of its own, saying that it has no reliable membership records, following a serious cyberattack last October.
The party’s in-house news site, LabourList, reports that members of Labour’s national executive committee were told this week, “The number of… delegates to annual conference is based on paid-up members as of 31 December of the previous year. However, as a result of the recent cyber incident, there was not a full and up-to-date membership list in existence as of 31 December 2021.”
Labour informed members in November of a “cyber incident” on an unnamed third party handling data on behalf of the party, which resulted in a “significant quantity of party data being rendered inaccessible on their systems”.
The “ransomware” data hack happened to a company to which Evans had subcontracted the party’s membership system.
According to other reports, based on the figures that it does hold, the party’s membership has tumbled by nearly 200,000 in the two years that Starmer has been party leader with Evans as his trusted sidekick.
This tallies with Inside Croydon’s research around wards in this borough, where some Labour branches have seen membership halved since they were campaigning for the 2019 General Election.
Skwakbox reports sources saying that the party’s membership is now 400,000, at least 190,000 down from its peak under Jeremy Corbyn of 590,000. Such a haemorrhaging of members will have a significant impact at election time, with many fewer activists available to canvass or distribute leaflets.
And there’s a serious financial impact, too. Such a fall in membership would equate to a loss of membership fees of around £8million per year.
The Labour Party in Croydon currently has no professional borough organiser, after Jack Buck quit the role in December. The Town Hall elections are just four months away.
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