This is ‘democracy’ in Steve Reed’s Croydon Labour Party

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Just 56 days until the local elections, and selection stitch-ups are still being carried out in poorly-attended meetings across the borough, with a serious effort to oust a senior black woman councillor to make way for a drinking buddy of Croydon North’s right-wing MP.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Eight weeks to the day until the borough’s residents go to the polls in the council elections, and the hierarchy of Croydon Labour Party’s latest efforts to tear itself apart and ignore grassroots members is well underway, with a move to unseat another democratically selected sitting councillor.

Under-threat: sitting councillor Patsy Cummings

Patsy Cummings is the latest to be under threat of deselection – and all seemingly at the behest of Steve Reed OBE, the Blairite MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South (delete according to taste).

Cummings, a councillor since 2017, is the deputy cabinet member for sustainable Croydon, culture and regeneration. She is also the borough’s race equality champion.

But she is also from the opposite wing of Labour from right-winger Reed.

It is less than 12 months since Cummings was deemed good enough to be Labour’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton in the London Assembly elections. A former parliamentary aide to Jeremy Corbyn, last autumn Cummings was democratically selected at a members’ meeting to be a council candidate for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward.

Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood happens to be the home ward of Val Shawcross, the Labour candidate for executive Mayor in the May 5 elections. It is also Reed’s home ward.

At a meeting of some party members in Croydon North held earlier this week, it became clear that there have been moves to have Cummings summarily de-selected.

This is all being engineered by the Local Campaign Forum, which oversees selection matters for Labour, to reinstate on to the slate an octogenarian who in the past few months has blatantly broken the party whip, then had failed to show up for council meetings for weeks on end, but who is also is known to be a regular on Friday nights in Beulah Hill’s Conquering Hero pub together with the MP, his former election agent John Wentworth and another Reed flunkie, former Lambeth Labour official Joel Bodmer.

It is not long since Pat Ryan was officially disqualified as a councillor by the Town Hall’s most senior legal official for being absent from council meetings for six months. So Ryan’s appearance at last Monday’s budget-setting council meeting came as a bit of a shock to some in the Town Hall chamber, where Ryan was observed to appear frail, sometimes looking confused and having some difficulty hearing the debates.

Drinking buddies: Pat Ryan (left) with Steve Reed OBE

Ryan’s reinstatement as a councillor has come after the convenient “discovery”, somewhat belatedly, by his Labour ward colleague, Nina Degrads, of some record of attendance at a council meeting which no one else had managed to find or record. So that’s all above board and not in any way suspicious, then.

And now, it seems, Reed and “Bodger” Bodmer, the chair of the LCF, are trying to get Ryan – who was first elected to the council in 1992 – back on the ballot paper once again.

Last November, Ryan, an increasingly controversial and cantankerous figure, was rejected by party members in the branch, at a meeting in which they selected Cummings and two other black women: Degrads and Christine Spooner.

Sources in the Crystal Palace Labour party say that Ryan claims that the process discriminated against him on disability grounds, as he was unable to attend the selection meeting because he was confined to a hospital bed.

Ryan had served as “enforcer”, the Town Hall chief whip, for the discredited ex-leader Tony Newman’s from 2014 to 2016.

Such experience didn’t stop Ryan from breaking his own party’s whip when it came to voting on LTNs, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods introduced in 2020.

Ryan voted with the Tories and against the Labour council’s own measures to shut-off rat runs, yet he was never subject to any disciplinary action over this blatant breach of party discipline.

But then, Ryan has often led a charmed existence, being given multiple “free passes” by Newman and the local party hierarchy.

All change?: Spooner, Cummings and Degrads after they were selected in November. Now moves are afoot to get Ryan back on the council

When, in 2015, Ryan and Wentworth were caught watching a Crystal Palace football match in the Town Hall chamber during an important council meeting, they got off with a mild admonishment.

More recently, Ryan has alienated his Labour branch party after loud and angry outbursts at ward meetings, including verbal attacks on women officials. A formal complaint to the Labour Party about his conduct saw no disciplinary action taken.

But according to a Katharine Street source, the attempt to have Ryan reselected is just a by-product of another objective of MP Reed, as he takes ever tighter control of the running of the local Labour Party, including the Shawcross mayoral campaign.

The source said: “It’s as simple as this: Steve hates Patsy, and he wants her out.

“They’re doing it now because they know Patsy won’t be able to find another Labour ward to get selected in. If they succeed in this, she’s out,” the source said.

“This is what democracy looks like in Steve Reed’s Labour Party.

“And they’re doing it in the one ward where we have 100per cent black female representation. It’s hardly a good look for the modern Labour Party, is it? This is all about taking out Patsy.

“Pat’s not a well man. You can see that from how he was at the Town Hall meeting on Monday. He turned up for a door-knocking session in Norbury a couple of weeks ago, but was too unwell to do anything apart from pose for a couple of photos.

“He launched a legal challenge against the party over his deselection, even though everything was done perfectly properly at the meeting that he failed to attend.”

Ryan’s poor council attendance record had been a key part of the decision not to reselect him. Once that matter had been resolved in Ryan’s favour, it became possible for him to be “repanelled” – interviewed to judge his suitability as a candidate.

“The whole episode is deeply distasteful, and shows the lengths that some in Croydon Labour will go to flex their power.

“The Labour Party has a duty of care to Pat Ryan, too, and this is being failed because of the little factional war that Steve Reed and his mates are waging.”

Read more: Veteran Labour councillors are banned after 6-month absences

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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, Croydon North, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, John Wentworth, Nina Degrads, Pat Ryan, Patsy Cummings, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to This is ‘democracy’ in Steve Reed’s Croydon Labour Party

  1. Anita Smith says:

    In an open letter to Val Shawcross can I ask this?

    “If you are elected as the Mayor for Croydon in May, how do you see your working relationship with Steve Reed? At the moment he appears to be making and implementing all Labour’s decisions in Croydon. Will this continue on your watch, will he remain the power behind the throne, or will you have the power to put him firmly in his place?”

    I think the voters of Croydon deserve to know exactly who they will be voting for and who has the power.

  2. Gavin FL Palmer says:

    Selection of Councillor candidate should be on merit, ability, suitability, upholding the Nolan principles, serving the community first rather than the local MPs party drinking buddy.
    I wish Patsy Cummings all the best to becoming a serving councillor of Croydon.

    If I am elected Mayor then the selection for Council positions of responsibility will be from across party, based upon , honesty, integrity, trustworthiness after receiving applications and based on merit.

    Councillor Pat Ryan you have demonstrated your unsuitability for office please have the good grace to go back to enforced retirement.

    • You won’t be elected as Mayor, though, will you?

      And your “rules” for candidate selections: is that what was applied to you when the Conservatives named you as one of their council election candidates?

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