CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Professional organiser resorts to devious methods to try to make Shawcross campaign look stronger.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
A paid Labour Party official – and a member of the campaign team for Val Shawcross, the party’s candidate for Croydon Mayor – has been caught issuing instructions to members to try to fix an online poll.
Inside Croydon has obtained screen grabs from a Labour WhatsApp group which show Anthony Ellis, Croydon Labour’s borough organiser, issuing an instruction to visit a page on this website: “Gang, can you go over there and vote for Val Shawcross and Labour at the bottom of the page.”
Later, perhaps after considering that the polls on the website allow just a single vote based on a user’s IP address, Ellis added, “Vote from as many devices as you can.
“Make sure to vote from your phones and laptops.”
Ellis has been Croydon Labour’s borough organiser, a paid employee of the party, since the start of this year.
Ellis replaced Jack Buck, who had held the role for several years and who was notorious in local party circles for his key part in fixing the selection of his close friend, Caragh Skipper, as the candidate in the Fairfield ward by-election in November 2019, when Jose Joseph had been democratically selected by members to be the candidate.
Although an internal Labour investigation confirmed Buck’s role in perverting the democratic process, he was never subject to any no formal disciplinary action.
An Inside Croydon online poll, of the kind where Ellis wanted to falsely inflate the Shawcross vote, is, of course, by no means as serious a matter as what happened in Fairfield.
But as one demoralised party activist told this website, “It shows what lengths the party is prepared to go to to ‘shape’ the public debate ahead of these elections.”
And they added, “It also shows the growing concern about how the campaign has been going.”
Labour insiders relate that Val Shawcross’s campaign is being closely managed by Blairite Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE and the London regional office.
Ellis is a former parliamentary aide to Reed and was installed to his new job soon after Shawcross was selected as Labour’s Mayoral candidate.
In the past week, Labour has rolled out the “big guns” of figures from Westminster, in closely stage-managed photo ops and canvassing sessions involving parliamentary front-benchers, from party leader Keir Starmer – who visited South Croydon without members or even some local party officials being told in advanced – to David Lammy and Rachel Reeves.
In those canvassing sessions where members have been encouraged to attend, the turnouts have all been modest, with councillors and election candidates far outnumbering the number of activists attending.
The Labour “star turns” have tended to be centred on Tory-held South Croydon ward, supposedly a target in the council elections, marginal Waddon, where the local party has been in some disarray over the expulsion of sitting councillor Andrew Pelling, and Addiscombe East, where Maddie Henson’s seat is thought to be under threat from the Tories.
Henson runs a family IT business which secured a deal with the Labour Party nationally through David Evans, the party’s controversial general secretary, who was known to be close to the cabal which controlled Croydon Town Hall. Henson is also known to be close to Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones and is a member of Shawcross’s campaign team.
“It’s basically Sarah and Val pulling in a couple of favours to help Maddie,” one activist said.
Inside Croydon’s online polls are entirely unscientific snapshots of the views of readers of this website. No claim for their effectiveness as measures of public opinion has ever been made, so Ellis’s move to try to distort the outcome of such a poll suggests very poor judgement or rising panic in the Labour camp. Or both.
Shawcross’s campaign increasingly appears dependent on some kind of “plausible deniability” of any connection with the Croydon Labour regime under Tony Newman and Hamida Ali which bankrupted the borough.
Asked about Ellis’s intervention on the online poll, Shawcross told Inside Croydon that she had no idea that her full-time aide had made the WhatsApp request, and nor did she approve it.
Shawcross made no reference to Labour employee Ellis being subject even to a mild rebuke for his devious action.
The threat to her campaign from independent candidate, Andrew Pelling, the former Conservative MP and Labour councillor, is clearly implied in some of Shawcross’s latest literature.
With her campaign slogan from the time she was seeking selection – the slightly Churchillian “One Croydon Together” – having been dropped by the Labour powers-that-be and replaced by the entirely disingenuous “A New Direction for Croydon”, Shawcross is now urging party supporters to “use all your votes for Labour”.
This is a reference to the preferential voting system being used for the Mayoral election. “This will be a close election,” a letter from Shawcross sent this weekend says. “Every vote will count.”
Our report in February which prompted Ellis’s desperate-looking appeal covered how the Labour-controlled council was cutting more than £5million in Council Tax benefits for some of the poorest households in the borough. The only (then) Labour councillor to vote against this budget measure was Andrew Pelling.
Since then, further information damaging to the wrecked reputation of the Croydon Labour Party has emerged, including the 4.1per cent rent increase for council tenants, the fraud investigation into the handling of the Fairfield Halls refurbishment, a £70million hole in last year’s council accounts, Labour’s secret deal that handed £613,000 to the council’s departing CEO, and most recently, the heartless axing of the council’s Meals on Wheels service.
In February, our poll asked readers if they would vote for Pelling as Mayor. It also raised the intriguing proposition of using the transferrable voting system shrewdly: disillusioned Labour supporters, distrustful of the likes Newman and the clique that crashed the council finances, could use it to vote for an alternative candidate, reserving their second choice for the party.
If Ellis, and others, were so concerned over the threat of an independent candidate that they felt it necessary to try to fix a little online poll, then they might be very worried if they saw the votes registered in that poll, despite their dodgy efforts.
By this morning, 41.4per cent of readers said that they would vote Pelling, to just 22.2per cent for Shawcross, with nearly 18per cent ticking, “It’s a transferable vote system, so I can give Pelling my first vote and use my second to back my usual party.”
The Mayoral and council elections take place on May 5. Postal ballot forms are expected to be arriving through the letter boxes of those who requested them this week.
Read more: Council’s planning chief attempts to gag Mayor candidate
Read more: Starmer’s Labour is ‘losing members, losing funds, losing staff’
Read more: Labour council passes £5.7m cuts to benefits for vulnerable
Read more: Labour members angry over ‘Orwellian’ deselection of Pelling
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