Our Political Editor, WALTER CRONXITE, investigates the ritual humiliation meted out with repeat selection defeats being suffered by devoted Newman Numpties, councillors Manju Shahul-Hameed and Sherwan Chowdhury
Two time-serving Croydon Labour councillors have spent the last few months touring England and Wales, apparently trying to get selected as Parliamentary candidates for the next election.
I say apparently, because the attempts by Manju Shahul-Hameed, a member of the council cabinet which bankrupted the borough, and former civic mayor Sherwan Chowdhury, have been half-hearted, humiliating and barely mentioned by the councillors themselves.
So what is going on?
The Broad Green councillor failed to make the shortlist.
Shahul-Hameed was not too disheartened by this outcome, as she told rivals she was only doing it for the experience. The experience was short-lived, however, as unimpressed officials failed to put on her the shortlist that would have gone to party members to vote on.
Undeterred, Shahul-Hameed returned to north-west England in June to try her luck in the Bolton West parliamentary seat.
She had also thrown her hat in the ring for Crewe and Nantwich (for a long-time held by the formidable Gwyneth Dunwoody), with slightly embarrassing consequences.
Unfortunately for the north-west-loving Croydon councillor, both the Crewe and Bolton selections were set to take place on the same day. And so the south London politician had an awkward choice to make, deciding which of the north-west towns was her one true love. After Barrow, of course!
Shahul-Hameed plumped for Bolton and withdrew from Crewe.
Labour Party members in Bolton, though, were unimpressed. Shahul-Hameed polled “in the single figures”, according to a local source. There were 200 local members present at the selection meeting.
Still, “single figures” is better than “a single vote” – which is all that was achieved by Sherwan Chowdhury when he stood for the Welsh seat of Clwyd East in April. The other shortlisted candidates polled 44, 53 and 140 votes respectively.
Undeterred by his “derisory vote” (as Labour selections watcher Michael Crick called it), Chowdhury was soon back on his way to the green, green grass of Wales again – this time for the new seat of Bangor and Aberconwy.
Despite no known Cymru connection, Chowdhury has been placed on the three-person shortlist – with a highly-fancied local candidate, supported by Unite and Unison, excluded.
Some suspected something dodgy was going on. Noting Chowdhury’s inclusion, one tweeted, “I’m bemused as to why he’s on the shortlist when other local candidates have been blocked by Labour HQ.”
But not content with the north Wales selection, Chowdhury has also applied and, wouldn’t you know it!, been shortlisted for selection in Southport, Lancashire.
Southport’s previous claim to fame has been as the place where Red Rum was cantered along the beach in preparation for three Grand National victories. Unlike wannabe MP Chowdhury, “Rummy” never fell at the first fence.
Chowdhury was first elected to Croydon Council in 1994, though he has only remained on the council after last year’s elections because a chance vacancy arose in Broad Green, when one of Labour’s original candidates was exposed as having a High Court ruling against them for breaching their duties as a trustee.
Chowdhury had previously been dumped as a candidate in his own Norbury ward, for being thoroughly useless.
What connection the two Croydon North councillors have with Wales and north-west England remains a closely guarded secret… Despite standing in three parliamentary selections, Chowdhury’s Twitter feed mentions none of them and nor does it show any activity campaigning in the three seats where he has sought selection.
Shahul-Hameed has gone very quiet, too, since her excursion to Barrow.
Some suggest that Shahul-Hameed’s experience-gathering tour is because she still harbours hopes of selection in the new Croydon East constituency, even though party insiders maintain that no one associated with the disastrous Newman council administration will be allowed on to even the long list.
And for those left wondering whether any work is being done for the residents of Broad Green, it should be pointed out that Stuart Collins also represents the ward and, as far as we can tell, has no wider political ambitions. But then, as the long-term and always loyal deputy leader to Tony Newman right until the council finances crashed, Collins ought to have realised that he is carrying a bit too much baggage to ascend politics’ greasy pole.
That, though, leaves unanswered the obvious question: why are two Croydon North Labour councillors travelling hundreds of miles to then lose very badly in seats far away, and for which they seem to show no real ambition to win?
Experienced sources with the Labour Party in Croydon cite three possible explanations.
One is that there is a dearth of black and ethnic minority candidates (at least those acceptable to the current party leadership), and so the two Croydon councillors have been shipped around the country to make Labour appear more diverse. Indeed, it appears that on five of the six shortlists that Shahul-Hameed and Chowdhury have contested, they were the only ethnic minority candidate.
The party has been criticised recently by the widow of the late Tottenham MP Bernie Grant, whose name is used for Labour’s training programme for black and ethnic minority candidates. Not a single graduate from the scheme has been selected as a parliamentary candidate, and Sharon Grant said the scheme may not be “worthy of bearing Bernie’s name” unless there is tangible progress on black representation across the party.
Martin Forde KC, who was commissioned by Keir Starmer to investigate the party’s culture, found “undoubted overt and underlying racism and sexism” in some messages between senior staff, and said “the party’s more recent steps to address the problems with antisemitism… have not been matched by a commitment to tackle other forms of racism”.
The second possible explanation for Shahul-Hameed and Chowdhury’s grand tour is that they are being used to block other, more left-wing candidates from making the shortlists, being used as “filler” to give right-wing candidates favoured by party HQ an easier run.
One lag describes this as the “useful idiot” role (something that colleagues in Croydon Labour can confirm).
Certainly, there have been some selections where popular candidates, seen to be more on the left on the party, have been blocked in favour of these “filler” candidates from Croydon – and the current selection in Southport is another example of that.
The final, most extreme option, is perhaps the Broad Green councillors – with a record for voting for any old nonsense they’re told to – just have a kink for ritual public humiliation.
Meanwhile, some see the hand of Steve Reed OBE, currently managing the Uxbridge by-election campaign for Labour, in press-ganging two numpty councillors in his constituency into fulfilling this role for the party.
Any readers with additional inside knowledge are welcome to email Inside Croydon with their further insights…
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