WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the end of an era for Labour voters in Croydon North and Croydon Central, as David Evans and his party’s NEC hand-picks parliamentary candidates in south London
Croydon’s Labour MPs last night announced that they would be deserting their constituencies that they have represented, in one case for more than a decade, in order to stand in new, safe seats at the next General Election.
The moves have been derided by local Tories as “typical chicken run”, and by Labour activists as “a real kick in the teeth” and “cynical”.
The moves come in response to the parliamentary boundary changes which, using bits of other boroughs, have created a fourth Croydon constituency, all to be implemented ahead of the next General Election, which needs to be held before the end of December 2024.
The carefully choreographed announcements, by Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones, were made in emails to party members in their constituencies and came at around the same time that Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, was explaining how she was being shunted into standing for Labour in the revised Lambeth Central seat.
The moves appear to have been approved by the all-powerful National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, the General Secretary David Evans and with at least the knowledge of leader Keith Starmer, and have almost certainly been undertaken to preserve the parliamentary places for “Steve Weed” and Jones, both members of Labour’s Commons shadow team.
This game of south London musical seats is just the latest demonstration of the NEC hand-picking its parliamentary candidates, rather than allowing party members in the CLPs – Constituency Labour Parties – to choose who should represent them. Evans has been a long-time critic of CLPs and advocate for centralised control.
With veteran Peckham MP Harriet Harman standing down at the next election and London having two more seats under the Boundary Commissioners’ changes, one of which is in Croydon, the Labour leadership has, at least, avoided any wider displacement or unseating of current MPs, although in her letter Ribeiro-Addy made it quite clear she had been forced into making a move.
That’s because Reed, MP for Croydon North since November 2012, wants to stand in the new Streatham and Norbury constituency, which includes part of his current seat.
It also represents a homecoming of sorts for the former leader of Lambeth Council. Reed’s political ambitions were frustrated in 2008 when he was defeated in a selection contest for the then Streatham seat by Chuka Umunna, who became the area’s MP at the 2010 General Election.
Reed did not have to wait long, selected by a very narrow majority in a members’ vote for Croydon North after the death of the former Labour minister, Malcolm Wicks.
In his email last night to members of his CLP, Reed, who signs himself “Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor”, said, “I’m very sorry I can’t continue to represent every part of Croydon North in future…
“At the next election, I intend to be Labour’s candidate in the new Streatham and Norbury constituency. I live in Upper Norwood which is part of the constituency, and I used to live in Streatham where I was also council leader. The Labour Party will confirm arrangements for our candidate in the new Croydon West constituency.”
Sarah Jones has been MP for Croydon Central since 2017, when she defeated Tory Gavin Barwell at the General Election, having lost narrowly in 2015.
In 2019, buoyed by enthusiastic support from new activists drawn to Labour by the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Jones increased her majority.
But Central had always been a two-way marginal, and the boundary changes which will be brought forward at the next election for a new Croydon East seat make it even more so. The catastrophic antics of Jones’s party colleagues at Croydon Town Hall are likely to make the seat even more precarious for Labour.
So Jones is moving to the safer Croydon West and South Norwood (Electoral Calculus suggests it is 100per cent likely to be a Labour seat).
Jones, whose more personal email lacked Reed’s pomposity, addressing her CLP members as “Dear friend”, said that her move is “subject to the approval of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee” – confirming the centralised control inherent in this reshuffle.
“It really has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent you as your MP for the last six years,” Jones wrote.
“I have always been the MP representing the centre of our town, as well as the wonderful communities across the constituency. Much of the campaigning work we have done on knife crime, housing, and fire safety has had a focus in the town centre…
“This was not an easy decision as it has been an honour to represent our constituency, but the status quo is not an option,” said Jones.
Around the same time that Reed and Jones were telling the party activists who had helped get them elected that they would be moving to pastures new(ish), so left-winger Ribeiro-Addy was passing on the news to members in Streatham that she was also being moved.
“Our current Streatham constituency will no longer exist at the next election. It has effectively been split in two and divided between the new Lambeth Central and Streatham and Norbury constituencies.”
In common with Reed and Jones, Ribeiro-Addy offered links to maps and stuff, too.
Her “farewell note” sounded greater reluctance than her parliamentary colleagues, as she added further confirmation that this was all an NEC-inspired stitch-up.
“I’ve been made aware that papers have been sent out to the NEC to indicate which MPs will represent the new seats… I wanted you to hear from me first, that whilst in an ideal world I would love to continue representing our area in its entirety, it has been decided [our italics] that I will stand as Labour’s candidate for the new ‘Lambeth Central’ seat…
“Standing in this particular seat also helps to avoid the time-consuming, distracting and occasionally unpleasant contests that can occur amongst Labour colleagues in these situations.”
Whatever could she mean?
The Boundary Commission will publish their final proposals in July, and new CLPs are to be formed after this autumn’s party conference.
In the borough’s fourth constituency, Croydon South, held by Conservative Government Minister Chris Philp and regarded as a Tory safe seat, Labour has already selected serial election loser Ben Taylor.
It will be after the new CLPs are formed that Labour’s selection contest for Croydon East will take place, with Newman Numpties who helped to bankrupt the council Manju Shahul-Hameed and Alisa Flemming both expected to pitch shamelessly to further their personal political ambitions (“God help us,” was the considered verdict on that from one senior party figure).
Lambeth councillor Olga Fitzroy, who was Labour’s candidate in Croydon South in 2019, is also understood to be interested.
Last night’s carefully managed, NEC-approved announcements were not well-received by increasingly disillusioned Labour activists.
“It’s a real kick in the teeth for members who broke their back to get Sarah elected twice,” one told Inside Croydon.
“Sarah senses defeat in the air but captains usually go down with a sinking ship, they don’t grab the first life raft available, abandoning their crew in the process.”
Another long-time activist told this website, “This will be seen as pretty cynical.
“Sarah has said in the past she intends to continue to stand in the area where she lives. That would mean Croydon East, as she lives in Shirley.
“Many will think that her real reason for switching is that Croydon West is a much better bet for Labour to win. Sarah has her eye on her career prospects.”
- View the boundaries and wards for the new Croydon East constituency by clicking here
- View the boundaries and wards for Croydon West and South Norwood by clicking here
- View the boundaries and wards for the new Streatham and Norbury constituency by clicking here
Read more: Commissioners set Reed and Jones a boundaries conundrum
Read more: Labour attack ads score yet another embarrassing own goal
Read more: #TheLabourFiles: MP Reed, Evans and the Croydon connection
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The Croydon Central MP is saying good bye to all but 10.9% of her current constituents.
The equivalent, in fact, of saying to Croydon Central residents “Was nice knowing you!”
If it’s one of Newman Numpties standing in Croydon East I won’t be voting Labour.
Sorry Liebour will certainly NEVER EVER get my vote….
Or any of the others either….
Malcolm Wicks was a giant compared to these pygmies.
Malcolm was a person that focused on his job, a great advocate and MP for Croydon North – We have mourned his passing as we mounr all good people of which there are fewer each year.
Very informative piece. One fact to add: Steve Reed MP OBE is the most useless MP in Southern England.
No, he isn’t. You’ve clearly forgotten the Honourable Member for Croydon South.
Nick- I think for interfering, dithering, crass and general fucking uselessness, Reed is hard to surpass. When I’ve seen how he tries to influence local party politics, I’m reminded of the value of a builders skip without a bottom – works beautifully until the skip lorry comes to pick it up.
I can think of worse absoloute cretins but I have to admit to struggling to get to the second sets of fingers whilst doing so.
The boundary changes mean that Croydon East has more of the traditional Conservative voting areas than the old Croydon Central constituency, but more recent voting patterns will also have influenced Sarah Jones move to a ‘safer’ seat.
In the Selsdon Vale and Forestdale by-election last autumn the Conservative vote dropped dramatically but the Labour vote didn’t go up. It was the Green Party who benefited and overtook Labour to finish as the clear challengers to the Conservatives.
Council elections across the country earlier this month told a similar story, with the Green Party picking up lots of wins from the Conservatives – and from Labour.
With Labour’s dismal record in Croydon and depressing leadership nationally, they are likely to carry on losing members and voters to the Greens. Similarly, the Conservatives’ disgraceful behaviour in Government and the abysmal failure of Perry to achieve anything apart from putting up taxes in Croydon will cause many of their former voters to look for an alternative they can trust to do a better job – and that’s turning out to be the Greens rather than Labour.
I hope a lot more people will vote for the Greens as a better option than the tired and disappointing Labour and Conservative parties. It could make the elections next year a lot more interesting.
Excellent points. There is a choice at the ballot box . Given the current position of Croydon Council and the Government, it is very clear changes must be made . No one should forget ,that many of the councilors and MP’s have been in situ for years and importantly how they have voted , acted. and the subsequent hardship that has been caused to so many.
I am going out on a limb here and will actually welcome Ms Jones to her new constituency. Careerist or not she does seem to actually do things on behalf of the community and not always for political agrandisement. She appears to take her job seriously. So unless other parties come up with a clearly better alternative and for all Peters points that is one that is unclear – I would take a stab that West Croydon may be trading up.
Ms Jones was not involved in the shambles of Newman/Fisher so another plus.
By moving from the Centre to the West she will begin to really understand the root causes of crime, anti-social issues, homelessness, knife and gun crime, rampant low level crime to fuel crack buys along with the more serious stuff.
Sarah Jones was at least complicit in the financial collapse of the council. She was MP from 2017, yet said next to nothing about the financial high jinks taking place at the Town Hall under her colleagues Newman, Hall and Scott.
Indeed, Sarah was often a cheerleader for the efforts of Alison Butler, Scott and Negrini over Brick by Brick, staging guided tours for her Westminster bosses of the building sites.
Steve Reed was the shadow cabinet member for local government *before* Croydon’s bankruptcy. He has been virtually silent on the issue – but still employs Newman’s partner as one of his parliamentary staff.
And what action did either of the Labour MPs take about Regina Road *before* the full horrors were displayed on ITV News?
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The reallocation of us posh people in Park Hill to Chris Philip results in a very interesting shaped for the new Croydon East constituency. While some unusual shapes are to be expected…strongly asymmetrical shapes such as ones that encircle particular areas are not and may suggest to the cynical mind that the new boundaries have actually been drawn with a mind to keeping voter groupings together to decrease the number of marginal constituencies rather than…. Croydon East is suspicious enough with its lump missing in the middle but some others nearby literally go round corners. As we have an Electoral Commission to prevent any blatant Gerrymandering in the UK I can only conclude that there are unseen variations in population density and geography that explain these unexpected asymmetries in the new constituency shapes.