A small cabal of right-wingers, including a former council deputy leader who played a leading role in bankrupting the borough, staged a little coup last night to oust Andrew Fisher as the chair of Croydon Central’s Constituency Labour Party.
Croydon Central is a highly marginal seat, won from Tory Gavin Barwell (remember him?) in 2017 by Sarah Jones. Jones attributed her election success to the impact of the then party leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is also the CLP where Jones, when she chaired it, banned the use of the word “Blairite” at meetings.
Rosie Beacon, an employee of the Saudi-funded Tony Blair Foundation, was elected as the CLP’s chair by 28 members’ votes to 22.
The change of chair comes in the same week that the party’s ruling National Executive Committee passed a motion from Keith Starmer to ban Corbyn from standing as the Labour candidate in the Islington seat he has represented for 40 years.
Fisher, a columnist for this website as well as the i newspaper and a frequent guest on television and radio political programmes, worked for four years in the Labour leader’s office under Corbyn, as the party’s Director of Policy. He is widely acknowledged as the driving force behind the 2017 General Election manifesto For The Many, which saw a surge in popularity for Labour but failed, ultimately, to win them power.
Beacon only moved to Croydon in the past year. She has never held any elected position within the party locally. She is so little-known by Croydon party members that, ahead of last night’s meeting in Ruskin House, her supporters organised an impromptu “meet and greet” at the door with people as they arrived.
“Somewhat overwhelmed by the response to this,” Beacon tweeted this morning.
“Thank you for all the kind messages. I really love Croydon – I’m extremely excited to get stuck into running the CLP for a very marginal seat, especially as we head into an election.”
Fisher declined to comment when approached about the outcome. He had won election to be CLP chair in 2022 by a single vote from Carole Bonner, a former councillor and apologist for Tony Newman who was among those gathered to help Beacon take over.
Alongside Bonner and Beacon were councillors Maddie Henson – whose family tech firm supplies the much-criticised Anonyvoter system to the Labour Party – and Stuart Collins, Newman’s deputy leader from 2014 to 2020, when the council’s finances collapsed.
Also there was former party staffer and Blair fan-boy Martin Angus.
Beacon’s election was greeted with relish by factional figures from the party’s right, such as Starmer front-bencher Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Lambeth South.
Senior members of the local party expressed themselves as “despondent” over the outcome, while rank and file members expressed surprise that they have had Beacon thrust upon them. “I have no idea who she is or what she stands for,” one Croydon Central CLP member told iC. “She writes columns for CityAM? That’s a right-wing business paper, right?”
Another long-term member said, “Andrew has been a fair and inclusive chair.
“The meetings have been well-structured with interesting speakers, including local trades unionists involved in strike action.”
Commenting on Reed’s tweet, the source said, “The man is totally factional and has no interest in unity.”
It has been suggested that Beacon’s nomination was kept secret from most of the membership until the night of the meeting, where Julie Setchfield was re-elected, unopposed, as CLP secretary.
The important nominations to the borough-wide Local Campaign Forum, which did such a terrible job of organising the 2022 Mayoral and local election campaign, see Bonner and Beacon placed on the committee together with Morris dancer Nuala O’Neill and Yvonne Green, a union official who worked very closely with Newman at the council.
Croydon Central constituency is due to have its boundaries changed before the next General Election, which is expected to be held in 2024. The changes announced so far are likely to make it tougher for Labour to hold, which makes the membership figures for the party locally and nationally that have been released this week all the more concerning for the likes of Starmer, Reed and Beacon.
Jones’s election wins in 2017 and 2019 owed much to the mobilisation of dozens of members, who volunteered to knock on doors, deliver leaflets and “get the vote out” on election day.
Many of those have become disillusioned with the party in the past three years, and those that are still members are dissuaded from helping the party under its current leadership, especially in Croydon, where the Blairites who ran the council have caused such lasting damage, especially to so many of their own supporters.
Labour’s membership nationally has plummeted from 580,000 when Starmer took over with his Penge-based sidekick, David Evans, as General Secretary, to 377,000 today (excluding those members who are in arrears with their subs). That’s a lot of £5.25s per month that are no longer being received at Labour HQ – equivalent to a fall in income of more than £12.5million per year.
That trend has been witnessed in Croydon, as membership figures released at the Croydon Central CLP annual meeting demonstrate. Croydon Central had 1,200 members at the high-water mark of Corbynism in 2017. By last year, that had fallen to 869, and last night the meeting was told that current members were 793.
“That’s 400 fewer people to help at the next election,” said the source, “at a time when we need all the help we can get.”
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Please enlighten me as to what is or is not a ‘faction’? Is a faction just a grouping that has views you don’t like?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary: Faction: a small group of people within a larger one, whose members have some different aims and beliefs to those of the larger group.
You really ought to learn to use Google
“We don’t want no lefties no more ” said a Conser whoops Labour Party spokesman
Andrew Fisher has been an excellent Chair of the CPL – whilst he was Chair, the meetings were run extremely well, very fairly and in a timely fashion and the fact he has not been relected is a loss to the CPL. Whether you are on the left or the right of the labour party this cyncically organised right wing coup doesn’t bode well for demoracy or the “broadchurch” aspirations of a modern political party.
Whilst I have no idea how Andrew chaired the CLP I do agree with the point of boding well.
The Labour party has got to get away from the factionalisation of ideals and come back to the broad canvas unity respecting others views and encompassing different approaches together.
There will always be differences but the common good has got to take priority. We speak about equality but true equality does not utilise factionalism to deny the needs and voices of others. It does not seek for selfish gain to others detriment. It seeks the benefit for all. Thence yuo are right about the Broadchurch.
Perhaps dogmatic and intransigent factions of left and right need a bit of head banging and some rules so that both views are catered for and respected.
Otherwise there will be a continuation of who has the biggest gang at a meeting to vote will continue as opposed to what is the best and most beneficial policy for everyone.
Despite the huge problem of the Debt and Labours participation in contributing to that they have a duty to knuckle down and be effective locally in opposing and removing the bigger threat to the Borough embodied in Perry.
That is the Clear and Present Danger to this Borough.
I wonder whether the Labour councillors who bankrupted Croydon were Corbynite or Blairite. Either way it’s little wonder that Labour membership in Croydon has plummeted.
Don’t you read Inside Croydon?