Local Labour party withholds campaign funds in Pelling dispute

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: There are just 99 days to go until the local elections, but after a members’ meeting last night the party in power at the Town Hall will be forced to campaign with much less cash than they expected. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Rescinded: Andrew Pelling has been a Labour councillor for eight years

It’s been two months since Labour members in Waddon chose their three candidates to stand in the local elections in May, but there’s been precious little campaign activity since, after local party officials decided to get one of the trio – sitting councillor Andrew Pelling – to be “re-panelled”. Effectively, an attempt by Labour officials to de-select him.

And now there’s likely to be even less Labour campaign activity in the only ward that the party holds in the Croydon South constituency area, after a meeting of the CLP – constituency Labour Party – last night voted to withhold their £5,000 contribution to campaign funds in protest at the way Pelling has been treated.

Croydon South CLP was long at loggerheads with the rest of Croydon Labour, especially when Tony Newman was the council leader, mainly in a dispute about failures to account properly for campaign funds. As the only CLP in the borough without a Labour MP, members there often felt marginalised by the likes of Newman and his mates Paul “I want to concrete over Croydon” Scott and Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE.

The Pelling affair has reignited that bitterness and distrust.

Nuffink to do with me: MP Steve Reed (centre; with Cllr Alisa Flemming and ex-leader Tony Newman) denies involvement in local candidate selections

It was Pelling who successfully proposed to Croydon South CLP that they should support a move to a directly elected Mayor, something Newman saw as an attack on his authority (which, of course, it was). The re-panelling process – subjecting Pelling to an interview on the grounds that, horror of horrors, he’s spoken to Inside Croydon – is payback in what some suspect as a barely disguised vendetta being conducted by Reed.

The council’s financial collapse, and his pals’ prominent part in Croydon becoming the second local authority this century to issue a Section 114 notice, was deeply embarrassing to Reed, who was Labour’s front-bench spokesman on local councils at the time. He has since been shunted sideways by Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Some of those sitting councillors who have been cleared out during Labour’s laborious selection process have suggested that Reed has been influential in making the changes, so that the Progress MP can mould a group of councillors more to his Blairite liking. When asked, Reed has said that he has had nothing to do with the removals.

Pelling has told friends, “I am unable to say to Waddon residents with any certainty, or even my top-class Labour candidates, Rowenna Davis and Ellily Ponnuthurai, whether I will be a Labour candidate in May 2022. Whatever happens, I will back Ellily and Rowenna.”

But now Pelling’s friends and comrades are hitting back.

A vote of members last night approved a move to withhold a £5,000 payment towards the Labour campaign war chest that has been demanded by the LCF – the Local Campaign Forum, the body which has determined that Pelling requires re-panelling.

Selected, or not?: How a Reed-backed official tweeted the democratic selections in Waddon ward in November

According to one member at the meeting, “He spoke himself, as did others, some particularly passionately.

“The thing with Pelling is that he’s incredibly popular among all Labour factions, which is a rarity.”

Another said, “Andrew was democratically selected by Croydon South members in Waddon, after being properly panelled to defend the ward from the Tories again.

“We really do not appreciate the undemocratic actions of just five individuals on the LCF, for whatever misguided motivation, who are actively undermining our aim of beating the Tories. They are undermining us in Waddon, and they are undermining Val Shawcross’s campaign as Mayor.”

Hitting the local party in the pocket at election time comes just a week after Robert Canning, one of the three Labour councillors who won Waddon from the Tories in 2014, filed a formal complaint to the national party alleging that Pelling was the victim of a bullying campaign by the LCF.

Last night, Pelling tweeted, “Thank you so much to Croydon South Labour Party members for their solidarity to my cause this evening with real effective action. I’m very touched.”

Read more: Labour councillor submits bullying complaint to Labour Party
Read more: Members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling
Read more: The Buck stops here: Labour campaign disarray after fixer quits
Read more: De-selected councillor Pelling: ‘This is damaging my health’

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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, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Pelling, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Joy Prince, Report in the Public Interest, Robert Canning, Section 114 notice, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman, Val Shawcross, Waddon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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