Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports on the brinkmanship taking place in the local Labour Party over controversial reselections
With just seven days left before the official opening of nominations for all candidates for the local elections, there remain two seats in safe Labour wards still to be settled, with one of the borough’s MPs suspected of having a hand in one of the latest stitch-ups.
By the end of last week, Patsy Cummings, the deputy cabinet member who was democratically selected in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward last year, had still not received any notification of a meeting date to determine her fate, after Pat Ryan, the cantankerous octogenarian who had been democratically de-selected, was somehow given a second chance to stand for selection.
Ryan is said to be close to Progress MP Steve Reed OBE, which has provided him with a kind of “protected status”, despite formal complaints about the councillor’s conduct towards women party officials, and his breaking the party whip over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
Ryan was even disqualified as a councillor for failing to attend any council meetings for six months, but was reinstated only after someone had miraculously discovered a meeting that Ryan apparently had turned up for, even though few others had any recollection of such an event.
But some Town Hall figures have become increasingly unhappy at the way Reed, or his flunkie, Joel Bodmer, the chair of the Local Campaign Forum, which runs the party’s selection process, have been handling matters.
Last week Muhammad Ali, the council cabinet member for sustainable Croydon, took the unusual step of ensuring that Cummings – his cabinet deputy – was included in a publicity photograph accompanying an official council press release.
“Muhammad’s standing down in May. He’s had enough of all this,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today, “so he’s got nothing to lose.
“Having Patsy in that council photo with him is a very visible gesture of support.”
Reed, Bodmer and the LCF are thought to be delaying any decision on Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward until after selections are held in Woodside. By holding a CPUN selection meeting after Woodside, it would leave Cummings with no opportunity to seek selection there.
Woodside is having to go through the process all over again to fill a vacancy created by council leader Hamida Ali’s late change of mind over whether she would stand for election in May. It means that none of the three Labour councillors who were elected for the ward in 2014 and then again in 2018 – Ali, her predecessor as council leader Tony Newman and his mate, Paul Scott – will be on the ballot paper this time around.
But even Woodside is proving less than straightforward, with a decision made to have Ali’s vacancy filled using an all-woman shortlist, part of an effort to increase female representation on the council.
The AWS has outraged some, such as Maddie Henson, the Addiscombe East councillor, who thought that her husband, Mark Henson, could finally find a ward where he might get selected. The Hensons’ own “protected status”, as IT service suppliers to David Evans, the Labour Party’s general secretary, and to Val Shawcross, the party’s Mayoral candidate, appears not to have done them any good this time around.
Croydon Labour now has 25 women candidates in 45 safe or target seats (including South Croydon ward).
But after Bridget Galloway (South Croydon) and Jessica Rich (Waddon) were recently picked in selection re-runs, some think that finding another credible woman candidate for Woodside might be a bit of a stretch.
A Labour councillor who is sympathetic to Patsy Cummings and is angry at the self-inflicted damage being done to the party, told Inside Croydon, “What with all the other stitch-ups and shenanigans, the members have had enough.”
The councillor said that they were aware that the decision to have an all-women shortlist in Woodside had been formally questioned, and that they were told that London Region decided that Woodside should be a two-women, three-person ward.
“Region won’t allow open selection in Woodside because they claim they need to be consistent in their decision-making with how they are overseeing selections across London. Our current gender balance in our candidate list doesn’t mean anything to them because they claim that ‘legally’ they can judge based on the gender balance of current councillors to justify their rationale.
“And yet they don’t have any problems with rerunning selection in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood because of Pat Ryan’s ‘health issues’, and which could lead to deselecting a black woman candidate.
“It’s an utter joke.”
- Croydon’s Tories announced their full slate of 70 council election candidates six months ago, although one or two bits appear to be falling off that well-drilled process. Gavin Palmer, one of their selected candidates in Woodside, has pulled out thinking that he can do a better job than Jason Perry by running for Mayor. In Fairfield, Croydon Conservatives currently only list two candidates, Fatima Zaman having withdrawn (“personal circumstances change”, according to one source), forcing them to make a late withdrawal which might well undermine any remote chance they will have had of regaining a ward that they held until 2018.
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