Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the barrel-scraping exercise going on in the local Tory and Labour parties to fill a councillor vacancy in Selsdon Vale and Forestdale
The November 3 council by-election in what one council figure affectionately calls Sleepy Hollow (“Selsdon Vale and Forestdale sounds like something the boundary commissioners have taken from a Tolkien book,” according to another Katharine Street figure) is shaping up to be something of a race to the bottom.
The two major parties have now selected – in the loosest sense of the word – their candidates and managed to come up with a woman who evidently doesn’t know which way up the Pakistan national flag is supposed to go, and a young Starmer enthusiast who says that street drinkers should be “expunged” from Croydon town centre.
The by-election has been called following the death last month of sitting Conservative councillor Badsha Quadir, who having been nudged out of his previous Purley ward was parachuted into Selsdon Vale and Forestdale for the local elections in May and was duly returned to the Town Hall with a thousand vote margin over the next candidate.
Established by the 2018 boundary changes, Selsdon Vale and Forestdale is two demi-wards welded together: the affluent Selsdon Vale, from the Croydon South parliamentary constituency; and the Wates-built estate in Forestdale, which is in Labour-held Croydon Central. Even in the face of the gale of opposition caused by Boris Johnson’s Partygate scandals, the Tories still got 65per cent of the ward’s vote in May.
So the Conservative candidate for what should still be a safe Tory seat is local party official Fatima Zaman. It’s fair to say that Zaman has been round the block a bit in her painstaking efforts to get on to the council: part of the Tories’ “Fairfield team” just a year ago, in May she stood in Addiscombe West, where she polled only 771 votes – the worst result of the three Tories in that ward, none of whom were elected.
More recently, she dropped the newly-elected Mayor, part-time Jason Perry, right in it when, at a flag-raising ceremony outside the Town Hall to celebrate Pakistan independence day, Zaman failed to notice that they had the flag upside down as it went up the flag pole. Doh! She called this a “proud moment”.
Such routine incompetence is par for the course at Croydon Council.
It also runs deep within Croydon Labour’s Local Campaign Forum, who have managed to hand-pick as their candidate for Selsdon Vale and Forestdale someone who thinks nothing of expressing full-throated support for callous Conservative policies while calling for street drinkers in the town centre to be “expunged”.
Inside Croydon understands that Tom Bowell was the only “approved” candidate to put themselves forward to stand in the by-election.
The borough-wide LCF, which made a complete mess of the party’s mayoral and local election campaigns earlier this year, duly agreed to instal the 21-year-old Broad Green resident, without any reference to party members in the ward (as would usually be expected).
Bowell was a candidate in Addiscombe East in May, where he finished only fourth of the four candidates from the two leading parties. The meddlesome role played in that campaign by the candidate’s mother may have had some part in that outcome. According to one Labour supporter in the ward, “I couldn’t vote for Tom. I didn’t want his mum to get on to the council.”
And that “expunge” tweet could yet come back to haunt Labour’s candidate, who was expressing his support for Tory Mayor Perry’s controversial Public Space Protection Order, which involves handing powers to private security firms to send out “Power Rangers” doling out on-the-spot fines for littering and street-drinking.
“I’m in support of the PSPO,” Bowell wrote last month. “We must expunge from our town centre of the anti-social behaviour and street drinking that causes such upset and distress to our residents and visitors,” before adding a vague reference to “preventative programmes”.
Still, despite the obvious numbers involved in a by-election being held in a Tory-held ward in November, at least Tom’s Mum thinks it is going to be “interesting”. Bless.
The Green Party announced earlier this week that Selsdon local Peter Underwood would be their candidate. The LibDems, who are believed to have held a meeting of their members last night, have yet to bother telling anyone who they have picked.
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