CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: As the local party’s selection process staggers from one stitch-up to the next, poorly attended meetings are held to patch-up the damage caused by organisers’ incompetence and hypocrisy. By our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE
Having managed to pick a local election candidate who the High Court ruled had committed “a blatant breach of trust” while in charge of a local charity, and after forcing out a sitting councillor who dared to vote against the council’s benefit cuts, Croydon Labour’s LCF – the Local Campaign Forum – has hurried through three ward selection meetings this week, with members accusing them of yet another stitch-up.
The local elections are six weeks away, but Croydon Labour’s bungling LCF, chaired by Joel “Bodger” Bodmer, a flunkie of MP Steve Reed, has not managed to complete its candidate selection process. They can’t even find enough volunteers to put their name forward as “paper candidates” in unwinnable Tory-held wards in the south of the borough.
One of the short-listing meetings held this week across Broad Green, Waddon and South Croydon wards was so poorly attended, only three members logged in, and two of them were “attending” virtually while enjoying a swanky holiday in Sri Lanka…
In another of the short-listing meetings, a decision was taken to put only two candidates forward for the selection meeting – both of them named Choudhury.
All of the short-listing and selection events were staged virtually, even though covid restrictions were eased months ago, and previous Labour selection meetings had been held in-person.
“Zoom is being used as a control device now,” one activist told Inside Croydon.
“They don’t want to risk members talking to one another and raising objections to the way this whole process has been mismanaged from the beginning.”
Broad Green was having to re-run its selection process after Ramaraj Rajagopal was de-selected following a report published by Inside Croydon in January had shown how he had breezed through the LCF’s so-called “due diligence” process 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”.
At this week’s short-listing meeting, suspicions were aired in the uber-safe Labour ward that one of the two Choudhurys on the short-list, Safwan, is the son of Sherwan Choudhury, the current ceremonial mayor of Croydon, and that come the final selection meeting, one would withdraw to allow the other to go forward.
Sherwan Choudhury had been ousted from his Norbury ward earlier in the lengthy selection process, but was keen to clamber back on the allowances gravy train at the cash-strapped council.
Sources within the local party have assured Inside Croydon that the two Choudhurys are not, in fact, related.
But there were still grounds for suspicions among those attending the short-listing meeting, as Safwan’s name was added to the list of applicants only at the last minute.
And, as the cynics had predicted, when it came to picking a candidate, Sherwan Choudhury’s name was the one announced as the winner.
The following morning, with his £11,000 per year backbencher’s council-funded allowances now seemingly assured for another four years, Choudhury was out earning his keep – delivering leaflets for the Labour Party – alongside another of the Newman numpties who had helped to bankrupt the borough, cabinet member Manju Shahul-Hameed.
In South Croydon ward, supposedly a Labour “target” in the local elections being staged on May 5, Bridget Galloway was selected yesterday to fill a vacancy caused by a late withdrawal. Galloway, a council worker in Southwark, pledged to “do my best to serve the residents of whichever community I am elected in”. Which is nice.
And in Waddon, Jessica Rich got picked from a short-list of three, despite another candidate, Rowenna Davis, having interrupted her Indian Ocean holiday to make sure that her chum, Stuart Brady (like Davis, also a former Labour parliamentary candidate), was on the short-list.
Several branch members expressed concern that Labour in Waddon risked being posher than the Tories with a slate that included Blue Labour advocate Davis and ex-Saracens rugby player and barrister Brady. Those fears, at least, were allayed by the selection of Kenley resident Rich (“Many of my family live in Waddon,” she said. Which is nice).
In a branch which had around 120 members until 2020, just nine showed up to vote. And two of those were still on their Sri Lankan holiday.
The meetings were boycotted by several members and activists, who remain unhappy at the manner in which Councillor Andrew Pelling has been treated, de-selected and then expelled by Labour, in what they describe as a “witch hunt” because he acted as a whistle-blower against the local party led by discredited Tony Newman.
Pelling, who helped win Waddon ward from the Tories in 2014, last month broke the party whip to vote against Council Tax Support benefit cuts. The former Conservative MP for Croydon Central is expected to run in the local elections in May as an independent.
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
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