Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the rearranging of the deckchairs after the party’s ship in Croydon has already sunk
Carole Bonner, the former councillor and long-time loyalist of the discredited Tony Newman, is the new chair of the Croydon Labour Party’s Local Campaign Forum, the committee which did so much to lose the borough’s first Mayoral election and with it control of the council.
The less-than-dynamic LCF held its annual meeting last week – the first time that it had managed to convene a meeting of any kind since the Town Hall elections were held nearly three months ago.
Joel “Bodger” Bodmer, the acolyte of Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE, has stood down from the LCF altogether, after his brief spell as chair had overseen the ill-judged and disastrous campaign against having an elected Mayor and a series of incompetent selections for councillor elections.
The LCF is a committee formed of delegates from the three Croydon Constituency Labour Parties, plus members of the Town Hall Labour group, including new leader Stuart King.
Given the mess created at the council by Newman and his numpties in the run-up to this year’s local elections, and the shambolic campaign run by Bodmer and the LCF, the Labour Party has been paying closer-than-usual attention to the way the party is being run in Croydon.
Party General Secretary David Evans is known to have a particularly close interest, having run a consultancy based in the borough which received hundreds of thousands of pounds in council contracts in the years after he helped Labour win control of the Town Hall in 2014.
Party interventions have seen decisions that would usually be taken by the LCF or by local members – such as who was to run as the candidate in the South Croydon ward by-election at the end of June – having been imposed on the membership.
That seems unlikely to change any time soon, with Bonner replacing “Bodger” Bodmer as chair. Bonner, after all, had been one of the LCF’s officers who approved the selections of candidates who had been openly racist or debarred from being trustees of charities because of their questionable conduct. At a time when Labour in London was winning Wandsworth and Westminster councils from the Tories, Bodger and Bonner were losing council seats from Crystal Palace to Fairfield, from Waddon to the ex-councillor’s own old stomping ground of New Addington.
Bonner was elected as LCF chair by a 9-5 vote, beating Val Shawcross, who had taken on the task as Labour’s candidate for Mayor after her party had spent nine months telling the people of Croydon that they shouldn’t have an elected Mayor.
Bonner’s appointment will be seen by many within Croydon Labour as just another example in which the old guard under Newman, the former council leader, and Reed maintain their iron grip on control of the party locally. For their part, Newman and Simon Hall, the former cabinet member for finances, remain suspended by the Labour Party following their parts in the financial collapse of the council.
Nuala O’Neill, another official at the election-losing LCF, has also stood down. She is replaced as LCF secretary by Russell Whitehead, from Croydon North, who carries a Reed seal of approval.
New vice-chair is Croydon South’s Jess Rich, who brings to the committee her experience of losing a council seat to the Tories.
There are other rewards for failure in the Labour Party of Starmer and Evans.
It has been announced that Pearleen Sangha is to be promoted to become the interim director of London Region while her boss, Amy Fode, and Blairite ally of Reed, is on maternity leave.
Sangha was the most senior party official to be parachuted in to Croydon ahead of the local elections, and is the single figure referenced by candidates, including those who won as well as those who lost, to have delayed and frustrated campaign efforts.
“Pearleen lost Labour the Mayoralty, and lost Labour the council,” one source said this morning.
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