CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The Tony Newman-led vendetta against one of his own council group seems set to reach a bitter conclusion this week when Andrew Pelling looks likely to have the whip removed for daring to vote in the interests of some of the poorest people in the borough.
By STEVEN DOWNES
The unrepentant right-wing rump of third-rate Labour politicians who crashed the council’s finances with dodgy deals and crass incompetence have really gone into Alice Through The Looking-Glass territory, with a move to expel from their Town Hall group one of their members for the heinous act of voting to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in the borough.
An eight-year campaign of vilification instigated by the disgraced former council leader, Tony Newman, against one of his own Labour councillors looks set to reach a conclusion later this week when there is a vote to remove the Town Hall whip from Andrew Pelling.
The move looks likely to push Pelling into running as an independent candidate to be Croydon’s first elected, executive Mayor.
Pelling was the only Labour councillor to vote against cuts to Council Tax Support, a “Dickensian” proposal which will hit 20,000 households across the borough, including many single parents and carers.
The vote over whether Pelling should have the Labour whip removed will take place on Friday, and will see the 39 remaining Labour councillors – including the likes of Newman numpties Paul Scott, Alison Butler and Stooge Collins – plus members of the Local Campaign Forum, determine Pelling’s fate.
There have been other Labour councillors who have voted against the whip in recent times, most notably Pat Ryan. But there was never even a suggestion of sanction for Ryan. Ryan is a pal of Steve Reed and was a long-time member of Newman’s clique.
Separately, the LCF, chaired by Steve Reed groupie Joel Bodmer. has been trying to get Pelling deselected as a candidate for Waddon ward, on dubious grounds and with little evidence, with the principal accusation being that Pelling dared to speak to the media (namely, Inside Croydon).
Pelling has been forced to attend an interview where two of the three party officials on the panel just happened to be councillors from Lambeth – where Reed was once council leader and where, until recently, Bodmer was a party apparatchik.
Inside Croydon understands that two weeks ago the interview panel recommended that Pelling should be withdrawn as an approved candidate, despite his having been selected to stand again by an overwhelming majority of local members. Pelling is appealing against the decision, though without any hope of success.
He has told friends that he is being persecuted for daring to support the principle of having an elected mayor, a move which Newman regarded as a personal affront to his leadership (which it was, with good reason, as we now all know).
Newman’s mates in Croydon Labour, including past and present cabinet members such as Hamida Ali, Stuart King and Stooge Collins, last year squandered £10,000 in campaign funds attacking “fat cat mayors” with leaflets showing 10-pound notes being burned. The campaign was such a success that all 28 wards in Croydon rejected the Labour proposition and voted for a change to an elected mayor.
Pelling has been a Labour councillor since 2014, when with Robert Canning and Joy Prince, they won Waddon ward from the Tories, helping Newman and his numpties take control of the Town Hall. Pelling and his colleagues held Waddon again in 2018, the only red ward in the whole of the true-blue Croydon South parliamentary constituency.
Pelling had previously been a Conservative councillor, first elected in 1982, going on to become leader of the Tory group, and Croydon and Sutton’s first London Assembly Member, and he was Tory MP for Croydon Central from 2005 to 2010. He lost the seat after having the Conservative whip at Westminster withdrawn after he suffered a mental health crisis.
In the 2010 General Election, he stood for parliament as an independent, but lost to his former council colleague, Gavin Barwell.
Pelling’s reinvention as a Labour councillor has not been a happy one, as he was cold-shouldered by Newman, who ignored the ex-Tory’s experience and qualifications. Pelling was marginalised to such an extent that Newman prevented him from speaking at council meetings for more than a year after he was elected.
Newman, of course, was forced to resign from the council last year and remains, technically at least, under investigation by the Labour Party for his part in the council’s financial collapse. Yet Newman’s influence in Croydon Labour remains, through old mates including Reed, Butler and Scott, and party officials like former councillor Carole Bonner.
The persecution of Pelling appears to be one last act of petty revenge from the Newman clique which bankrupted the borough, the impact of which is still being felt today through massive cuts to the council budgets, hundreds of job losses and the axing of benefits which Pelling opposed.
Waddon councillor Canning has filed a formal complaint to the Labour Party over the treatment of Pelling, including accusations of bullying, while the Croydon South constituency party has withheld thousands of pounds of campaign funds in protest at the persecution of Pelling. Disillusioned grassroots members are refusing to canvass.
In perhaps one last act of defiance by Waddon’s Labour councillors, including Pelling, last week submitted a stinging criticism of the latest version of the Labour council’s Local Plan, which they suggest is being imposed on residents unlawfully, with too many late and ill-considered changes.
The left-leaning website Skwawkbox yesterday reported the decision to remove the whip from Pelling saying, “Former Tory knows more about defending poor people than ‘Labour’.”
And they add: “Croydon is, of course, a stronghold of the Labour right and home to both Keir Starmer’s general secretary David Evans and MP Steve ‘Corbyn was soft on criminals’ bollocks Reed.”
Pelling has posted on social media that the vote will take place this Friday “on whether I should be removed from council Labour party for voting against Council Tax benefit cuts”.
Pelling wrote, “These cuts will lead to the council spending more money, not less. People will get evicted for not paying the rent and end up being a big financial cost to the council with high temporary housing costs.
“People will try to get extra jobs to cover the up to £129 less a month benefit and then will struggle on their caring roles for older residents leading to the important provision of increased care packages.”
Read more: Labour council passes £5.7m cuts to benefits for vulnerable
Read more: Local Labour party withholds campaign funds in Pelling dispute
Read more: Labour members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling
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Read more: Conflicts of interest, incomplete contracts, unlawful payments
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