Expelled! Labour councillor lines up independent campaign

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The local party’s hate-hate relationship with one of its most experienced and capable councillors has finally been brought to an end. EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES

Rescinded: Andrew Pelling has been a Labour councillor since 2014

Andrew Pelling, a Labour councillor for Waddon ward since 2014, has been expelled from the party.

Pelling has spent recent months tip-toeing through the minefield of the local party’s undisguised antipathy towards him, and the national party’s procedural rulebook, as he has sought to continue as a Labour candidate in May’s local elections.

But after all that painstaking careful navigation, Pelling – a former Tory MP – tripped himself up by meanwhile registering with the Electoral Commission as a possible independent candidate.

Pelling’s expulsion by Labour makes it almost certain now that he will run as an independent candidate to become Croydon’s first directly-elected Mayor. The party name registered with the Commission is “Putting Croydon First”, the same slogan he used in 2010 when running as an independent parliamentary candidate in Croydon Central.

Pelling’s fate was delivered on Monday in a letter from the Labour Party’s governance and legal unit. The decision is subject to appeal, but… well, this time, the Blairites and Newman numpties in Croydon Labour finally think they have achieved their aim after an eight-year vendetta against the former leader of the Conservative group at the Town Hall.

On Monday, Clive “Thirsty” Fraser, the chief whip of the Croydon Labour group, was quick to circulate his councillor colleagues with news of a cancellation of a meeting due to be held this Friday, when they were to consider withdrawing the whip from Pelling because he had dared to vote in the interests of 20,000 of the borough’s poorest and most vulnerable households by opposing swingeing cuts to Council Tax Support.

Happy days: councillors together in Waddon for eight years, Pelling, Joy Prince and (left) Robert Canning

Pelling was endorsed by local party members as recently as last November, when they voted democratically for him to stand again in the ward which he, together with Joy Prince and Robert Canning, won from the Conservatives in 2014.

It remains the only red ward in the usually true-blue Croydon South constituency.

But Pelling has since been subjected to a renewed selection interview process, with acolytes of Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North (delete as appropriate), accusing the Waddon councillor of the trumped-up offence of speaking to the press (namely Inside Croydon). That process led to a complaint to the national party, from ward colleague Canning, that Pelling was being bullied.

When Pelling came to face the kangaroo court, two of the three-person interview panel were councillors from… Lambeth. The panel condemned Pelling to deselection, a decision which was also subject to an appeal which is now rendered academic.

Many believe that with Canning and Prince standing down at the end of this council term, also removing Pelling as a candidate in Waddon will see the marginal ward lost to the Tories again.

Pelling’s re-selection trial saw a temporary halt to Labour’s campaigning in Waddon over the Christmas period. Since the resumption following the easing of covid precautions, Pelling has been conspicuous by his absence from Waddon team campaign selfies.

But Pelling has been spotted out delivering leaflets in the Whitgift Estate area of central Croydon. The leaflets contain multiple objections to the council’s controversial proposed “intensification” changes to the Local Plan – a signal, perhaps, that an independent mayoral campaign launch is not far away.

In a completely unscientific poll run by Inside Croydon earlier this month, 39per cent of readers said that they would vote for Pelling as an independent Mayor, with only 27per cent backing the official Labour candidate, Val Shawcross.

Official: only 27% of respondents to an iC poll say they will vote for Val Shawcross as Mayor

The deeply dull Tory candidate, Jason “Plastic Windows Salesman” Perry, got less than 9per cent.

Importantly, given that the election on May 5 will use the transferable vote system (as has been used to elect the London Mayor since 2000), 14per cent of respondents said that they would use their first preference for Pelling, and their second choice vote for a party of their choosing.

That suggests around 53per cent support for Pelling among Inside Croydon readers.

As one Katharine Street source said today, “If a credible ‘Anyone But Labour’ candidate emerges, they could do surprisingly well. It’s possibly why Peter Underwood, from the Green Party, is rating so well.

“The Tories under Boris Johnson are deeply distrusted and unpopular, and despite all Labour’s attempts to whitewash what’s gone on at Croydon Town Hall over the last four years, the public remain very angry.

“The transferable voting system becomes a useful democratic tool for voters under these circumstances.”

Pelling is the third councillor this year to be removed from Labour’s roster of 41 seats won at the last Town Hall elections. Pat Ryan and Shafi Khan were disqualified as councillors by Town Hall legal chief last month for failing to attend any council business for six months. 

No confidence: Pelling has called for Hamida Ali to resign as council leader

Pelling, however, can continue to attend council meetings as an elected councillor until May 4 – though whether Hamida Ali, the council leader, will allow him any speaking opportunities at the upcoming budget-setting meetings must be doubtful.

Last week, while still a Labour councillor, Pelling publicly called for Ali’s resignation as council leader for her failure, while a cabinet member under predecessor Tony Newman, to notice or question the £37.5million overspend – and possible fraud – in the shambolic refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls.

The official Labour Party letter advising Pelling of his expulsion was dated last Friday, February 18. It was sent by email to an address which the politician – he was MP for Croydon Central from 2005 to 2010 – has been using for more than a decade. The email address begins “puttingcroydonfirst”.

The letter stated, “We write to inform you that we have received documentation that demonstrates that you have committed a Proscribed Act pursuant to Chapter 2, Clause I.4 of the Labour Party Rule Book (the Rules).

“On 03 February 2022, the Electoral Commission published a notice of political party registration applications. This included an application for the political party ‘Putting Croydon First’ with the proposed description ‘Putting Croydon First – Supporting Andrew Pelling’ (Exhibit 1).”

The letter goes on to explain that “Declaring an intention to stand in a public election in opposition to a Party candidate” is a “proscribed act”.

“Consequently, your membership of the Labour Party (the Party) stands terminated. You are no longer entitled to attend any Party meetings or to exercise any other rights associated with membership of the Party.”

Purged: David White

Pelling maintains that since he was being subjected to a re-panelling process by the Reed-dominated local Croydon party, he was left with no alternative but to prepare for the possibility that he would be deselected as a candidate.

“Registering with the Electoral Commission is not the same as declaring that you are standing as a candidate,” a source close to Pelling told Inside Croydon today.

“But this is the same party, under the likes of Reed, Keir Starmer and David Evans, which expelled David White after 50 years’ loyal membership and service, without granting him even the common decency of a hearing, on spurious grounds of some old tweets which they had looked at previous and discounted.

“Meanwhile, the likes of Butler and Scott, Hamida Ali and Stuart Collins, all key figures in the council’s financial collapse, remain as councillors and with a voice in important Croydon party and campaign decisions.

“Basically, they are making it up as they go along, to suit whatever ends they have in a purge of the party of anyone they fear to be a threat, or worse – holds truly socialist principles.”

Read more: Labour councillor submits bullying complaint to Labour Party
Read more: Evans appointment to Labour top job ‘could tear party apart’
Read more: Starmer’s Labour is ‘losing members, losing funds, losing staff’
Read more: Labour council passes £5.7m cuts to benefits for vulnerable
Read more: Labour members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling
Read more:
£67m fraud at Fairfield: Town Hall row over calling in police

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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 Andrew Pelling, Hamida Ali, Joy Prince, Robert Canning, Tony Newman, Waddon. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Expelled! Labour councillor lines up independent campaign

  1. This has got to be the lead on tonight’s news! Bring it on – all of it.

  2. Ian Ross says:

    Andrew Pelling should breathe a massive sigh of relief at being free from the shackles of this vile, overbearing party. He deserves everyone’s vote to allow him to put Croydon first unlike the Labour cabal currently wasting our money and wrecking the place.
    Vote Pelling for Mayor!

  3. jackgriffin1933 says:

    I would be in favour of Andrew Pelling as Mayor, not because he is an independent – as a Momentum member he is independent only in respect of the incumbent Labour ‘shabal’ (that’s a shambolic cabal by the way, copyright me, just now) – but because of the acumen he has demonstrated over the council’s finances (the bits he has been able to influence, at least) and that he has seen politics from both sides of the fence, so hopefully possesses the insights to build alliances where partisanship is to the disservice of the electorate.

    I had/ have no animus towards Val Shawcross – and would have been happy with her in the absence of Pelling – yet her campaigning pamphlet that recently landed on the mat leads me to think of her as almost running with the foxes and chasing with the hounds.

    As campaign literature goes it, in ordinary times, would seem a perfectly respectable piece of political collateral. But in Croydon’s non-ordinary times, it isn’t.

    The entire momentum of the DEMOC movement came from grass roots objections to the way the LBC has been managing planning and development in the borough. While it’s nice to consider other topics like crime, local investment, sustainability etc etc, no one should kid themselves that the election for a Mayor of Croydon has anything to do with anything other than planning and development, and a desire to rein the LBC back in.

    Val has eloquently expressed her views on that matter in this esteemed organ and Inside Croydon’s loyal reader won’t be in much doubt of her ostensible position on this singular matter.

    Until you get to her campaign literature, where it barely warrants a mention.

    Emblazoned with Labour branding in a purplely off-red shade (Labour, but not Labour), she covers off a host of issues – crime, tenant repairs, revitalising the moribund town centre and so on – yet development gets a mere two sentences at the end, under a heading about Croydon being greener.

    “We must protect our precious green spaces from development and reduce the worst impacts of over development across the borough. We should focus on building family homes and the schools and facilities to go with them”.

    That’s just not good enough and doesn’t start to address the concerns of, and ire arising in, residents over this.

    My conclusion is that, because the current Croydon Labour shabal is responsible for this mess and she is campaigning under the Labour banner, it is felt somewhere that either she or the banner or both would be damaged by association with the planning and development free-for-all if drawing too close attention to it in this piece of Labour literature.

    “I’m Labour, but not local Labour. I’m anti-development, but not that anti”, was how I interpreted it and the other candidates – who will go hard on, and probably lead with, this topic – will monster her over it unless she is unequivocal in her condemnation of the current planning regime, no matter how that reflects upon Labour generally in the process.

  4. Billy James says:

    Andrew Pelling gets my vote…
    Sorry but never ever voting Liebour ever again

  5. Is there anyone actually left* in the Labour party…? Or is it just Sir Keir?

    *not a pun

    • Ian Kierans says:

      When you remove the people who deliver results that are decent, along with the more honest, the good and all those who actually stand for residents and communicate you are left with the silent, the self serving, the shirkers, the party politico’s and dodgy fixers – really nothing worth voting for. Too many decent ones either resigned or got shoved out. I

      But lets not tar the Labour Party with the Croydon version shall we.

  6. Percy pound says:

    Its akin to giving the fat kid the keys to the sweet shop.Regardless of whom you vote for the outcome remains the same.We need something new in this great country,Not just at local level but a clean political sweep from top to bottom.Madness is defined as doing the same thing over and over & expecting a different outcome.

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