Whoever gets picked as Labour’s candidate for the new Croydon East parliamentary seat is effectively being installed to a job-for-life sinecure. And with such high stakes, some have already bent the rules and resorted to underhand tactics, reports our Political Editor, WALTER CRONXITE
In the week leading up to Halloween, Croydon’s social media has been hit with a set of video nasties. Croydon’s discredited Labour Party has started its selection process to choose its candidate for the Croydon East parliamentary seat, and these mini-movies are supposed to win over the support of the selectorate – Labour Party members in the new constituency.
At an estimated cost of £3,000 a time, these slick-looking parliamentary broadcast-style promotional films don’t come cheap. But when the stakes are so high, some of the candidates have decided that money is no object if they can land this job-for-life cushty number.
And if the videos are not enough, party officials have been accused of breaking data protection laws to advantage one candidate, while other, dirtier tricks have started, with unsubstantiated allegations of “colourism” made against another.
The videos look as if someone’s been studying Hugh Hudson’s Guide to Making a Movie, with sweeping shots showing the candidate strolling through some of the less grubby bits of Croydon. And there’s trams. Lots of trams.
In fact, trams crop up so often in the candidates’ promotional videos, it is as if that’s the only thing that they know about Croydon. Well, that and how Labour bankrupted the borough.
So far, we’ve spotted videos from “pensions professional” Nareser Osei (who has been a councillor in Newham), Natasha Irons (councillor in Merton), Olga Fitzroy (a Lambeth councillor) and Joel “Bodger” Bodmer (who has never been elected to public office anywhere, for good reason).
There’s been no video nasties from any Labour councillors in Croydon, largely because someone in HQ or London Region reckons it would not look great for some of the people who bankrupted the borough to be put forward as candidates for a parliamentary election.
Others who are confirmed as putting themselves forward for selection include Johnson Situ, a former councillor in Southwark who now advises London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and local party member Sangeeta Gobidaas (who wasn’t among the councillors who crashed Croydon’s finances; she just canvassed for them…).
For those who have released their Hollywood blockbusters just in time for Halloween, while the pictures are mostly lovely, they should probably do much more work on their sloppy scripts.
Bodger Bodmer is well-known in Croydon Labour circles as the most useless chair of the Local Campaign Forum, having worked closely with Steve Reed on the 2021 anti-Mayoral campaign and then in 2022 to lose the Mayoralty for Val Shawcross. Bodger’s failure to vet properly some of the crooks and bigots among the local election candidates he helped to pick also created extra problems for his party colleagues.
A former leading light in Streatham Labour, Bodger is seen as Reed’s and the Labour Establishment’s pick. In his video, Bodger claims to have experience of winning elections (Oh, how we laffed at that one!) and a deep love for Croydon (he quit as LCF chair when he moved out of the borough he now professes to love so much).
The attempts to fix the selection for Bodger have been going on for some weeks, starting with the imposition by London Region, without any election by members, of former councillor Carole Bonner as chair of the new Croydon East constituency party.
“It’s an open secret in Croydon Labour circles that Bonner is backing Bodmer, so expect a stiched-up shortlist,” one concerned member told Inside Croydon.
Bodger is expected to get the endorsement of the Unison union, something likely to be determined by Unison official… Joel Bodmer. “No qualms about conflicts of interest there,” according to another local Labour figure.
Bodmer’s video nasty includes him sitting down for a cosy cup of tea with another Unison official, Yvonne Green, the union rep at Croydon Council, and a long-time supporter of Tony Newman, Simon Hall and the Labour councillors who crashed the council finances. In the past, Green was placed in charge of Croydon Labour candidate selections.
“When Tony was council leader, Yvonne did nothing to protect members’ jobs from being lost, or to protect services – it was all about looking after her mates,” one union activist has told Inside Croydon.
The stitch-up goes beyond the old pals’ act, though. The selection process was only formally begun last week, at which point all those seeking selection ought to have, quite legitimately, been equipped by party officials with members’ contact details.
But multiple sources have told Inside Croydon that Bodmer was both door-knocking and phoning local members, seeking their backing, in September and early October – before the process had begun. This was witnessed soon after London Region had announced Bonner would be Croydon East interim chair.
“Someone must have given him early sight of the membership list, or he has obtained it against the data rules,” said one source.
In his video, Bodmer strikes a slightly menacing figure, as his lack of real understanding of the borough is betrayed in its opening shots, where while he talks about how “Croydon East is a fantastic place to live”, the camera uses images shot from Croydon South, looking lovingly towards the town centre tower blocks which are in… Croydon West.
Bodmer’s constituency confusion is not unique.
Irons says she has “deep and meaningful links” with Croydon, and she is quick to play the Palace card, getting her old dad, wearing a football shirt, to meet her off a tram at Wandle Park. Which is also not in Croydon East.
Irons struggled with geography before, when she tried to get selected as Labour’s candidate in Croydon South. Then, she was beaten to the role by Ben Taylor, despite his having the worst election record of any Labour council candidate in Croydon history.
“For the people of Croydon, the last 13 years have been more than difficult,” Irons says, walking straight into the bear trap laid for her by those awkward eight years when her Labour colleagues Newman, Hall, Alison Butler and Paul Scott bankrupted the borough.
Labour’s selection in Croydon East is important because, with the seat reckoned to be 98% likely to be won by Labour, whoever gets chosen will be handed an MP’s salary and perks in a state-funded sinecure for as long as they want it.
The overall electorate of Croydon East is 75,000, but the Croydon East Labour members who will be choosing the candidate – with or withour stitch ups – could be fewer than 200. That’s first-past-the-post 21st Century British “democracy” for you…
With Steve Reed gravitating back to his first love of Lambeth and Sarah Jones opting to lengthen her parliamentary career in Croydon West, while Philp seems likely to hang on in Croydon South, it all means that one of the country’s most ethnically diverse boroughs is likely to return to Westminster at least three white MPs.
Some Labour councillors have belatedly woken up to this obvious anomaly, and have been canvassing support for Irons because of her heritage – rather than making the more compelling case for what might be described as “the content of their character”.
And there has been discussion on some WhatsApp groups involving another potential candidate and what was described as an “incident” at the recent Labour Party Conference, at which the relative skin tones of Croydon East contenders became an issue.
“The campaign has turned really nasty,” one wannabe MP is supposed to have written on social media. “I’m appalled and… am being encouraged to lodge a formal complaint.”
There’s weeks more of this to come: the deadline for applications for those who are seeking selection by Labour in Croydon East is not until this Friday, after which the shortlisting process will take place.
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