WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the latest round of horse-trading in the local Labour Party after its crushing defeats in the local elections
After an almost complete absence from politics in her home borough for 20 years, there’s now mounting speculation that Val Shawcross has decided to stick around and is preparing for an attempt to be selected as a Labour parliamentary candidate at the next General Election.
Shawcross emerged beaten, but unbowed, after last month’s Mayoral election where she lost by fewer than 600 votes to the Tories’ Jason Perry.
Despite being hampered by Croydon Labour’s deservedly dire reputation after they bankrupted the borough, and also having to contend with even more blundering in the management of her campaign, Shawcross has decided to continue her involvement at a local level.
Shawcross, a council leader at the Town Hall in the 1990s, exited Croydon politics almost completely when she was elected as London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark in 2000. Her 16-year spell at City Hall was followed by two years as Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport, and then she helped establish the Crystal Palace Park Trust.
In all that time, Shawcross largely avoided involvement in the machinations of her local Labour Party. Until now.
At the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party annual meeting last week, Shawcross was elected as one of its reps on the Local Campaign Forum – the organisation which under the blundering chairing of Joel Bodmer managed to make an already bad situation very much worse.
This is not a mere dalliance by Shawcross, but is seen by some within her local party as a strategic move at a time when Croydon Labour is effectively being treated as “under special measures” by the party’s national hierarchy, after managing to lose control of a London council at a time when the Tories were losing flagship authorities Westminster and Wandsworth.
At the same Croydon North CLP AGM, Shawcross’s partner, Mick Anteney, was elected treasurer.
Given that, after a brief interlude when Momentum attempted a challenge, it is generally accepted that nothing happens in the CLP without the approval of right-wing MP Steve Reed OBE, then the moves by the Shawcross household won’t have been made without due consultation.
It is 10 years now since Reed thwarted Shawcross’s attempt to become the MP for her home constituency, by a mere three votes. But now there’s a new vacancy coming up.
In 2023, the Boundary Commissioners are expected to approve plans to give Croydon, currently with three seats at Westminster, effectively an additional “half” seat, with a Norwood constituency which takes chunks out of Croydon Central, Croydon North and a bit of Lambeth.
Sources at the CLP say that Reed is thought to have had a look at his prospects in Norwood, but was advised that he is loathed in his old Lambeth patch even more than he is despised in Croydon (as if such a thing were possible..!).
So he appears to have decided to stay with a Croydon North seat which will gain bits from Croydon South and Mitcham and Morden.
For Upper Norwood resident Shawcross, after burnishing her reputation within the Labour Party for her efforts to polish a turd with their campaign for Croydon Mayor, a run at finally becoming an MP – if the boundary changes can be implemented before any General Election is called – could be her reward.
Elsewhere at the Croydon North CLP annual meeting, Reed tightened his grip. Not content with having Labour’s Town Hall chief whip (Louis Carserides) now working in his parliamentary office, one of Reed’s biggest fans, Bodmer, after presiding over a catastrophically poor local election campaign (“the most disastrous local election campaign in Croydon Labour’s history”, according to one former party official), has been rewarded by being made chair of his CLP.
Not everyone associated with the 2022 election campaigns is carrying on as if nothing happened. Ex-councillor Nuala O’Neill has stood down as the secretary of the Local Campaign Forum.
“Not that it will make any difference,” a Croydon North source said. “London Region are pulling all the LCF strings now.”
Read more: Election results leave Labour supporters angry and dismayed
Read more: Labour officials pick ‘worst-ever’ candidate for by-election
Read more: Boundary Commission recommends four MPs for Croydon
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I hope Shawcross forgets the ‘half seat’ and instead goes after the inept Steve Reed’s current seat. A useless interfering MP who regularly makes bad decisions.
I am clear that at age 64 I have fought my last election as a candidate and my motive for going on the LCF is to use some of my experience to help with the training and development needed within the local LP. It’s time for the younger generations to step forwards!
As the report states quite clearly, this is the speculation among members in the Croydon North CLP.