CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Poor organisation, few proper checks and now a shortage of volunteers even to be paper candidates, with election day just weeks away. EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon Labour’s local election campaign is in yet more disarray, with the party being forced to conduct three re-selections urgently, with polling day now barely nine weeks away.
In charge of the shambolic selection process has been Joel “Bodger” Bodmer, the Steve Reed flunkie from Lambeth who was installed by the Progress MP as chair of the Local Campaign Forum.
In Broad Green, one of the three selected candidates, Ramaraj Rajagopal, has been de-selected and his appeal has been dismissed.
Croydon Labour acted only after an investigation published by Inside Croydon in January showed how the candidate in a uber-safe ward had breezed through his party’s so-called “due diligence” without anyone noticing that he had been the subject of a High Court judgement that declared his conduct on behalf of a Thornton Heath-based charity was “wholly incompatible with his duties as a Trustee, being a blatant breach of trust”.
The dispute centred on the Sangam on Thornton Road, which had been purchased by the local Tamil community thanks to a £70,000 loan from… Croydon Council.
It is understood that, when filling in his application form to be a candidate for the Labour Party, Rajagopal forgot to mention his involvement in this controversial episode.
Yet despite the seriousness of the High Court findings against Rajagopal and his possible de-selection, in another display of really poor judgement by senior Croydon Labour figures, he continued to appear in campaign selfies well into this month with cabinet member Manju Shahul-Hameed and Stooge Collins, the former council deputy leader.
But suddenly, last weekend, Rajagopal was nowhere to be seen, having vanished from the propaganda tweeting of the Broad Green councillors.
No consideration appeared to be given to the potentially damaging impact that having Rajagopal as a kind of human billboard for Val Shawcross leaflets might have on the Labour mayoral candidate’s campaign.
In addition to Broad Green, the other re-selections are in a Labour “target” ward and one marginal ward.
Labour is targeting South Croydon, where Town Hall opposition leader Jason Perry is a councillor, even though no one seriously believes that they can win there, given their disastrous stewardship of the borough over the past few years.
Yasmin Dubash, a late selection after Labour ran out of women candidates, has since withdrawn due to what one source described as “an unspecified conflict of interest”.
The other sudden vacancy is in Waddon ward, where the hounding out of Andrew Pelling has been well-documented.
Pelling is currently appealing against his expulsion from the Labour Party, but the outcome of that is such a foregone conclusion that LCF officials have already begun the selection process to find a replacement for someone who has been a Labour councillor for the past eight years.
The shortlisting meeting is planned for next Wednesday.
Among those hoping to jump into the vacancy created are Sherwan Choudhury, the current ceremonial Mayor of Croydon who was de-selected in his own Norbury Park ward, and former professional rugby player, Stuart Brady, Labour’s losing candidate for the Loughborough seat at the 2019 General Election.
Having recently moved to Coulsdon, Brady is a barrister. His skills in and around the ruck and in defending the indefensible could come in useful in possible future fraud cases surrounding the Labour-run council and its handling of the Fairfield Halls.
Oddly, both the Waddon short-listing and the selection meetings are to be conducted via Zoom, rather than in person.
“All of these selection complications might have been avoided if the process had been better organised, and competently managed,” one disillusioned activist told Inside Croydon.
“The deliberate, self-destructive conduct of the LCF in all this has been gobsmacking.”
The Local Campaign Forum is the committee that is supposed to oversee selections and run election campaigns across all three Croydon constituencies. The Croydon South Constituency Labour Party is in an on-going dispute with the LCF, withholding £5,000 of campaign funds because of the mishandling of the only Labour-held ward in their area.
As well as “Bodger” Bodmer, another key LCF official has been Carole Bonner.
Bonner is a former councillor known to remain loyal to Tony Newman and Simon Hall, whose mismanagement of the council’s finances saw the Town Hall crash into bankruptcy in 2020. Last week, Bonner lost her position as chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party, with one veteran activist suggesting that local members voted against because she was so deeply boring.
The local Tories completed their selection process last autumn, with a complete slate of 70 candidates across the borough’s 28 wards, and they have been out and about meeting the electorate for nearly six months.
Labour meanwhile, according to well-placed sources among the party’s hierarchy, is struggling even to fill “paper candidate” places: members who volunteer to put their name to a candidacy which just fills a slot on the ballot paper in Conservative-held wards deemed to be unwinnable.
“Unsurprisingly people have been put off applying due to having to go through the rigmarole of being panelled just to do the party a favour by standing in an unwinnable ward,” our source said.
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