CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Efforts to de-select Waddon councillor after he was democratically selected by members in his ward have been described as a ‘witchhunt’ and have now been raised by the party nationally.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon Labour, already in disarray with no borough organiser or campaign strategy less than four months from the Town Hall elections, now has its influential Local Campaign Forum accused of bullying and of “campaigning against the Labour Party”.
A formal complaint was submitted to the Labour Party last week. It has been made by one of the party’s elected and (a rarity in Croydon, we’d suggest) still-respected councillors.
Since 2014, Robert Canning has been one of only three Labour councillors in the whole of the Croydon South constituency. Canning’s complaint cites the LCF and its chair, Joel “Bodger” Bodmer, for “Bullying, intimidation or harassment”, “Campaigning against the Labour Party” and “Uncomradely behaviour”.
Bodger was only recently installed as chair of the Croydon LCF, having moved to the borough from Lambeth. Bodger is said to be a close ally of Croydon North’s Progress MP, Steve Reed OBE.
Canning is a councillor in Waddon, and a ward colleague of Andrew Pelling.
Canning decided some time ago not to stand for re-election in May, though Pelling had put his name forward and was selected as a candidate in the ward by an overwhelming majority of grassroots Labour members in the ward.
But campaigning in the key council marginal seat came to a grinding halt before Christmas when Bodger – who has never held elected office – told Pelling he would need to be re-interviewed to assess his suitability to be a council election candidate for Labour, accusing him of that most heinous of offences: speaking to Inside Croydon.
In his complaint, Canning says that Bodger and his fellow Reed lackeys on the LCF committee have “not provided a shred of tangible evidence… to justify [Pelling’s] re-panelling or to back up its contention that he is behind leaks to the media”.
Canning is concerned that the hard work that he and his ward colleagues, including Joy Prince, have put in over the last nine years to win and then hold Waddon from the Tories is about to be squandered by an act of petty vindictiveness on behalf of Reed.
For while Pelling, and the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party, called for a change in the way the council is run, MP Reed took a leading role in the ill-considered campaign to oppose a directly elected mayor.
Reed and many of Newman’s numpties, who retain power and influence in the local Labour Party, were deeply embarrassed last October when all 28 of the borough’s wards – including all the wards in Reed’s Croydon North constituency – voted in favour of making the change to a directly elected mayor.
Inside Croydon has seen a copy of Councillor Canning’s stinging complaint to the Labour Party.
In it, Canning writes, “The Croydon Labour LCF has unilaterally decided it wants to re-panel Cllr Andrew Pelling as a candidate for the Croydon Council elections in May 2022. Cllr Pelling successfully passed his original panel interview last autumn and was re-selected by local party members to stand again in Waddon ward where he has been a councillor since 2014.
“The proposed re-panelling is on the grounds that Cllr Pelling may have been talking to the media and leaking confidential information discussed in the Croydon Labour Group (the Labour councillors on Croydon Council).
“However, the LCF has not provided a shred of tangible evidence (including to Cllr Pelling) to justify his re-panelling or to back up its contention that he is behind leaks to the media and no other individuals have been identified for re-panelling. Further, any allegations of this nature which relate to a sitting Labour councillor are matters for the Croydon Labour Group Chief Whip rather than a witchhunt on the part of the LCF.
“It seems to me that the LCF is taking unjustified, unsubstantiated and vindictive action against Cllr Pelling and appears to be exceeding its authority. Therefore its actions can only be described as constituting bullying and threatening behaviour and uncomradely behaviour towards Cllr Pelling.”
And Canning’s complaint continues on the subject of “Campaigning against the Labour Party”: “Waddon is a marginal ward on Croydon Council. It was the swing ward that won Croydon Council for Labour when it switched from Tory to Labour in 2014.
“The actions of the LCF are creating uncertainty and confusion just a few months out from the May 2022 election and this is undermining Labour’s campaign to hold Waddon.
“The uncertainty created by the LCF over whether Cllr Pelling will still be a candidate is making it impossible to campaign effectively (eg. to prepare literature about who Waddon ward’s candidates are).
“Discontent over the LCF’s decision is acting as a disincentive for local party members to engage in the campaign given that they overwhelmingly selected Cllr Pelling to be one of their candidates and this is now being retrospectively and unjustifiably challenged by the LCF.
“The Croydon Conservatives will be the only beneficiaries of the LCF’s decision to re-panel Cllr Pelling at this late stage whatever the outcome of any re-panelling.
“Consequently, it is impossible to reach any conclusion other than that the LCF in Croydon is campaigning against the Labour Party.”
Today, Canning told Inside Croydon: “To me, the LCF’s decision looks like a worrying case of bullying and intimidation which has no place in the Labour Party. It is also undermining our campaign to retain Waddon as a Labour ward.
“I did raise these concerns directly with the chair and secretary of the LCF last month, only to have them ignored while their witchhunt of Andrew intensifies.
“My formal complaint has now brought these concerns to the attention of the Labour Party.”
The travails of the cash-strapped Labour Party’s organisation are mounting daily, and they include the apparent inability to deal with issues such as Canning’s complaint in a timely and fair manner.
Canning’s complaint will eventually be considered by a disputes panel of the National Executive Committee who, the party says, “have a range of potential sanctions available to them, the most serious of which is a referral to the National Constitutional Committee with a recommendation of expulsion”.
Today, Canning said that he felt he must take action. “After all, as Edmund Burke said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
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