There’s quirkiness and eccentricity among some of the candidates to become the borough’s first executive Mayor, as well as some who perhaps are not quite what they claim to be. Editor STEVEN DOWNES on the confirmed candidates list for May 5
There will be eight names to choose from when Croydon’s residents go to the polls next month to pick the borough’s first executive Mayor, with (to put it mildly) local eccentric Winston McKenzie back on the ballot paper, along with a couple of other fringe candidates with similarly bizarre offerings and less-than-stellar business backgrounds.
The final declaration for Croydon Mayoral candidates was at 4pm yesterday. Other London boroughs’ electoral deadline was at 5pm; Croydon’s was earlier because that’s when the cash-strapped council’s phonelines close for the day.
And as the puff of white smoke went up, as well as the expected party political candidates on the sheet, there are three independents and one far-right candidate seeking your votes.
Yes: “votes”, plural.
The Mayoral election on May 5 will be conducted under a preferential voting system, so you will be able to pick a first- and second-choice, something which allows electors to boost the cause of candidates from outside the iron grip of the Croydon political duopoly.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the candidates – but not in a good way – is the self-styled “His Excellency Ambassador Dr Winston McKenzie”, who is not an ambassador in any conventional sense and is not a doctor (apart from any doctorate the old fake has conferred upon himself; he would not be the first politician to do that).
The failed ex-boxer (his brothers Clinton and Duke were both world champions), failed night club owner and serial election loser has flitted from party to political party in increasingly desperate attempts to get elected. Most notably he served as an apologist for Farage in the racist UKIP, but he has also endorsed the far-right English Democrats.
Only when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother did McKenzie actually win a vote: he was the first housemate to be kicked out, in a public reaction to the homophobia he displayed on the show.
McKenzie’s last noted appearance on a ballot paper was in 2018, when he was a Croydon Council election candidate in Waddon and won the support of a grand total of 59 people, finishing plumb last and gaining fewer votes even than his partner, Marianne Bowness, the ex-wife of former Tory council leader Peter (now Lord) Bowness.
Through much of this, McKenzie has often sought public donations to fund his personal political ambitions. The efforts have often looked like a scam.
In 2016, he turned up at City Hall with £10,000 in cash as his deposit for the 2016 London Mayoral contest, but was disqualified from running because he failed to get his paperwork right. Drat! No one, perhaps apart from McKenzie and Bowness, knows what happened to that money.
This time around, it appears that McKenzie has managed to lodge his £500 deposit and £500 towards appearing in a council-produced election booklet, where the self-described “Christian entrepreneur and businessman” (what business?) will doubtless repeat some of his more florid and dubious claims.
But as far as dubious, he won’t be alone among the candidates.
Also on the ballot for Mayor will be Farah “London”, a former Conservative Party supporter who is now with the Taking The Initiative Party, a right-wing group with links to evangelical Christians and where leading figures have advocated anti-mask and anti-vax approaches to the global covid pandemic which has killed millions worldwide.
Croydon-born “London” was an independent candidate in last year’s London Mayoral elections (11,869 votes, finishing 14th…).
At that time, she stated that her home is in Tower Hamlets. She’s often photographed on the balcony of a plush-looking apartment overlooking Tower Hill.
She also claims to be a successful businesswoman, although the only Companies House record for “Farah London” is for an apparently unconnected restaurant company that was wound up in 2020.
Companies House does, however, have records for someone called Farah Farazad, whose date of birth appears similar to the wannabe politician, and who was a director of Farazad Investments Ltd, a company that was wound up as insolvent in 2019.
Under current rules about candidate declarations, the council does not have to publish home addresses or full names (it’s entirely possible, of course, for an election candidate to change their name by deed poll). It is not enough to qualify to be a candidate in the Croydon Mayoral election just to have been born in the borough.
Inside Croydon asked Farah “London” where it is she lives, and whether the businesswoman listed at Companies House as Farah Farazad is one and the same. She has not answered.
Another ex-Tory running as an independent for Mayor is the somewhat quirky Gavin “Harry” Palmer. No sooner had Croydon Conservatives declared Palmer to be one of their council candidates for Woodside ward last autumn than he declared himself a runner for Mayor, despite frequently displaying a deep ignorance of the electoral system and the way a local authority is run.
Sources suggest that in the days before the declaration deadline, Palmer was desperately trying to contact other candidates to plead with them not to run and instead support his campaign. The final list of candidates gives an early indication of how successful Palmer might be in working to achieve any cross-party consensus…
Palmer does have two things going for him over the next month until election day.
First, he is the owner of a massive billboard near the Fiveways junction, where since before the Mayoral Referendum last October he has been displaying graffiti-esque type slogans, such as “Croydon deserves better!” Which is probably less of a slogan than a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.
And Palmer does, at least, want to be a candidate. Which is probably more than what can be said for Richard Howard, the somewhat shy Liberal Democrat candidate from Addiscombe.
Croydon’s LibDems are a dwindling band of ditherers: even with their much-reduced number of party members, they failed to select a candidate until well into January (even shambolic Croydon Labour were better organised).
And then, the LibDems only did so after having a democratic vote over whether they should have a Mayoral candidate at all…
Having been anti-Mayor until last October is not stopping Peter Underwood from running as the Green Party’s Mayoral candidate, providing his typically robust challenge to Labour and Conservatives, whose Val Shawcross and Jason Perry have been out and about campaigning since the New Year.
And if Winston McKenzie is the Joker in this pack of candidates, then the wildcard in the election is surely Andrew Pelling.
Pelling is the only one of the eight candidates who was bold enough to declare his support for switching to a directly-elected Mayoral system long before the matter was rubber-stamped by voters in all 28 wards around the borough – about 20 years before, in fact. It was a matter of constant irritation to the increasingly irascible Tony Newman when he was leading the council towards bankruptcy.
Pelling is a former Tory MP and ex-Labour councillor who spent eight years on the Town Hall’s backbenches but refused to be silenced by discredited Newman and his numpties. Now, he is running for Mayor on a platform of experience and a record of delivery within Croydon, as well as promises to axe Labour’s 4.1per cent council rents rise and the removal of Council Tax benefits from 20,000 households.
In a borough where many residents are thoroughly sick of party political machines, both locally and nationally, Pelling’s appeal to voters to use their first preference vote for him could yet cause more than a ripple come May 5.
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