CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: The blundering local campaign organisation has dropped another clanger with its declaration of its candidate’s address for a ward by-election. By STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon Labour’s by-election campaign in South Croydon, already causing discontent among grassroots party members after officials imposed a candidate, has now hit problems over a false claim on the official declaration form.
The by-election has been called for June 30, at a cost to tax-payers of at least £20,000, to fill the vacancy caused by Jason Perry, who stood for election as a ward councillor as well as running to become Croydon’s first elected Mayor. Tory Perry, a councillor since 1994, was elected Mayor by a borough-wide majority of fewer than 600 votes on May 5, so is not allowed to take up the councillor seat in South Croydon.
Following the May 5 elections, the Town Hall is under “no overall control” for the first time in Croydon’s 57-year history as a London borough, with 34 Labour councillors, 32 Tories, two Greens, one LibDem and the Perry-created vacancy.
Seven candidates have been nominated for the by-election in the ward, where as well as Perry, it has so far returned the two long-standing Conservative councillors, Michael Neal and Maria Gatland.
Labour’s best-performing candidate on May 5, Bridget Galloway, got within 300 votes of being elected. But Croydon Labour’s Local Campaign Forum, heavily criticised for its mishandling of selections and the running of the local election campaign, has decided to ignore Galloway and the two other previous candidates for the ward and instead give Ben Taylor a second chance of getting elected.
Sometime Momentum member Taylor stood, and lost, in New Addington South on May 5, polling a measly 647 votes, delivering Labour’s worst-ever result in a Croydon ward since 1965. Taylor won the votes of only 8.06per cent of eligible residents.
The LCF over-ruled even the Croydon South CLP in putting Taylor forward as a candidate, and did so without the usual democratic selection process among party members in the South Croydon ward.
That decision has now been compounded in the declarations, which were made public from the Returning Officer on Wednesday. On the official candidates list, Taylor’s home address on the swanky Cane Hill estate in Coulsdon is described as “South Croydon”. Which, of course, it isn’t.
In a ward by-election where the local connections of each of the candidates is liable to be a key factor, this attempt to pass Taylor off as being something that he is not has already attracted complaints to the Returning Officer for a false declaration.
Anthony Ellis, the party employee who oversaw the lacklustre Labour election campaign as “borough organiser”, left at the end of May when his short-term contract ended and was not renewed.
The party’s London Region officials, who are overseeing the way that Croydon Labour is being run, appear to have parachuted in a staffer from the one-party state that is Lewisham, John-Paul Duddy, to look after the South Croydon campaign.
It may have been among one of Duddy’s first tasks in the job to secure the 10 nominating signatures from residents in the ward and complete the nomination form – including the misleading candidate address.
Candidates are not required to make their home addresses public on the declaration forms any longer, though here four of the seven have chosen to flaunt the fact that they live locally.
Taylor’s CR5 Coulsdon postcode does stick out like a sore thumb to anyone who can be bothered to check these things about the candidates, and it could yet be a factor that works against him in what is expected to be a very low turn-out at the end of the month.
Taylor’s “campaign”, such as it is, also seems likely encounter disaffection from fellow Labour members, angry at the way he has been imposed upon them undemocratically, with many disillusioned and refusing to campaign.
Party members’ WhatsApp groups have been alive with arguments over the move.
In one exchange, Joel Bodmer, the hapless chair of the LCF, is supposed to have claimed that Taylor was imposed to give the membership the diversity it demands. Yet Galloway and Tariq Hafeez, another of the South Croydon candidates who stood last month, are both from BAME backgrounds.
“They don’t seem to understand that it’s not about, ‘You want more black men? We will decide and give you this one. Now sit down and shut up. We’ve given you your fucking diversity’,” was the reaction from one disaffected activist.
Members have also criticised the lack of consistency and continuity in abandoning Galloway, Hafeez and the third candidate, Josh Andrew, without a proper selection process. At the LCF meeting which hand-picked Taylor, even his own CLP, Croydon South, opposed Taylor’s selection, favouring Galloway instead.
The other candidates in the South Croydon ward by-election on June 30 are:
Dani Denton (Conservative)
Kathleen Garner (UKIP)
John Jefkins (Liberal Democrats)
Andrew Pelling (Independent)
Mark Samuel (Independent) and
Peter Underwood (Green)
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