Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest anti-democratic and secretive stitch-up going on behind-the-scenes in the local Labour Party
“Welcome to Croydon East” says the less-than-charming email to members to announce the creation of a Constituency Labour Party, in anticipation of new boundaries at the next General Election.
Steve Reed has returned to his Lambeth roots with the new Streatham and Norbury constituency, Sarah Jones has opted for the safety of the reconfigured Croydon West seat, but that leaves everything to play for in the Croydon East, made up of bits of the previously marginal Croydon Central and parts of Tory stronghold Croydon South.
And the cold hand of Reed and his Blairite mate, David Evans, are already being suspected of laying the groundwork for a like-minded chum, Joel “Bodger” Bodmer to get the chance of a parliamentary sinecure for life.
Bodger has the richly deserved reputation for being the worst chair in the history of Croydon Labour’s LCF, the Local Campaign Forum. And that’s despite some fierce competition from various incompetents, buffoons and time-servers who held the post before him.
“In the current climate of Tory meltdown it might be hard for Labour to lose Croydon East,” according to one veteran Croydon campaigner. “But given Bodmer’s record, I’m sure he’ll have a good chance of doing that.”
Bodger is credited with running a campaign that undermined Val Shawcross so that she lost the Croydon Mayoral election last year by fewer than 600 votes. And this was after he spent £10,000 of precious funds producing anti-mayoral Labour leaflets featuring burning pound notes – this in a borough where Labour had just crashed and burned the council finances.
Yet it seems that Bodger, someone who has only a passing association with Croydon, is being backed by a rapidly growing number of councillors in his bid for selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Croydon East.
It had been expected that new CLPs would be formed after annual conference in Liverpool next month. But then the email arrived in members’ inboxes last week, revealing three unelected “interim” officers imposed by Labour’s London region – with, it is believed, the encouragement of former Croydon business owner, now party General Secretary, Evans.
“Your previous CLP may or may not continue to meet, and you may have communications from that CLP until 12 October,” the email said.
The imposed powerbrokers are led by chair Carole Bonner, the former councillor and cheerleader for Tony Newman. On the last two occasions Bonner stood to be chair of the Croydon Central CLP, the membership rejected her.
Melanie Felten is named as the interim CLP secretary – a position she has never held before. Felten’s claim to fame is a bins campaign near her home on Oval Road, in which she set out to embarrass her ward (Labour) councillors.
The interim CLP treasurer is another unelected Croydon Labour deadweight, but one with friends in low places.
Mark Henson is the husband of Newman Numpty councillor Maddie Henson, and the supplier to the Labour Party of the controversial, and error-plagued, Anonyvoter electronic vote-counting system. It was a gig awarded by Evans without any commercial tendering, so all perfectly above-board and legit we are sure.
Given the need to run a selection process almost as soon as the Croydon East CLP is in place, the role of Bonner, Felten and Henson could be crucial in deciding who gets through to the short-list.
As Inside Croydon has previously reported, there was originally a very large field of hopefuls for the Croydon East selection, although that appears to have whittled itself down over the summer – with some sitting Croydon councillors finally reading the runes and discovering that their applications are about as welcome as a dose of clap in a nunnery.
In this important respect, Bodger would seem a perfect candidate. He’s never been a councillor in Croydon. In fact, he’s never been elected as a councillor anywhere…
He is a Unison union organiser, which in his case may prove to be oxymoronic.
Among those known to be keen to be selected are Natasha Irons (a Merton councillor) and Olga Fitzroy (a councillor in Lambeth) have both got more experience of running (local) government and successful campaigning, and were thought to be the front-runners for Croydon East until Bodmer’s thwarted ambitions of getting picked for a seaside seat saw him turn his gaze back to Croydon, apparently with the backing of Reed.
Which might explain why Croydon LCF’s review into the reasons for Labour’s local elections defeat in May 2022 has yet to be published, despite being completed months ago.
“While the reasons for the election defeat rest largely with the well-documented failures of the Labour council, my understanding is that various concerns were also raised in the report around shortcomings of the LCF and the whole candidate selection process,” according to one well-placed source.
“Inside Croydon performed better due diligence on some of the chosen candidates – such as the chancer who is banned from ever being a charity trustee again after an attempted property snatch – than the LCF did, and that was supposed to be one of Bodmer’s main tasks.
“You have to wonder whether the decision not to publish the election review is to try and protect the interests of Bodmer, the LCF’s former chair, as he seeks selection in Croydon East…”
It was Bodger’s decision, and Bodger’s decision alone – despite pleadings from Shawcross herself and Clive “Thirsty” Fraser, then Labour’s council group’s chief whip – to insist that Andrew Pelling should be “re-panelled”, which led to the sitting councillor’s deselection and ultimately standing as an independent candidate, costing Shawcross her narrow defeat as well as losing a council seat to the Tories in Waddon.
Fraser, Shawcross and others, according to the source, “all recognised the risk to Val’s election prospects if Andrew was deselected and stood as an independent”.
They continued: “The narrowness of Val’s defeat shows they were right. Bodmer was either too stupid or too arrogant to listen to them and he may well have cost Val victory given she lost by only around 600 votes.
“It’s hard to envisage a more unsuitable person to be Labour’s candidate in Croydon East.”
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