WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the deeply underwhelming line-up being presented belatedly for Labour members in Croydon and Sutton from which to choose their candidate in next May’s London elections
The Blairite apparatchiks in charge of the Labour Party in London have abandoned their iron rule of banning any of the Croydon councillors responsible for bankrupting the borough from applying to run for bigger and better things.
Last night they announced that they were allowing Maddie Henson to put herself forward for selection as their candidate to become Croydon and Sutton Assembly Member in next May’s London elections.
Addiscombe East councillor Henson, who was first elected to the council in 2014, proved to be one of the most loyal of Newman Numpties, the collection of pliant, unquestioning lobby fodder who somehow never noticed that their great leader, Tony Newman, and his clique of chums were crashing the council’s finances.
According to insiders, Labour London Region may have had no choice but to allow Henson’s name onto the shortlist. They seem to have had only had one other candidate.
That is Martin Whelton, a councillor from neither Croydon nor Sutton. But from Merton.
Since the London Assembly was established in 2000, Labour has never held the Croydon and Sutton super-constituency, which was won in 2021 by “Father Jack”, the often sweary Sutton Conservative councillor Neil Garratt.
Garratt recently finessed the leadership of the Conservative group at the Assembly from Harrow hairdresser Susan Hall, who appears convinced that she can win next May’s Mayor election from Sadiq Khan.
For his part, Whelton has at least been honest enough to make no secret of his desire to stand as Labour’s candidate in Croydon and Sutton.
He has been putting in the hard yards, too, grimacing mightily in those excruciating selfies taken by party zealots as he has popped up, Zelig-like, on seemingly every canvassing session organised by the Labour Party in Croydon over the past few weeks.
Whelton works as a union official. A councillor in Merton’s Pollards Hill ward since 2002, he was a long-serving council cabinet member and this year is Merton’s deputy ceremonial mayor. He has, of course, professed some association or enduring attachment to Croydon (and Sutton), as is obligatory of all those seeking selection. And Whelton did go to John Fisher School in Purley.
Henson’s attachments to Croydon are a little more obvious, although her abilities as a politician less so. Importantly, she is connected to Labour General Secretary David Evans, as the company she runs with her husband, Mark Henson, provides the controversial Anonyvoter system.
It is this system which at the end of this month will be used by Labour members in Croydon and Sutton to choose between Henson and Whelton.
London Labour has a track record of never actually trying to win the Croydon and Sutton Assembly seat – even withdrawing campaign resources from candidates in the past when there was even a remote chance of electoral progress.
In 2021, Labour won 11 of the 25 Assembly seats, including two from the nominated list system. Were Labour to win in Croydon and Sutton in 2024, it would be at the expense of one of London Labour’s (more favoured) list nominees.
Running this selection process so late, giving the successful candidate just six months to establish themselves with the voters and to challenge “Father Jack”, is seen by Labour insiders as more evidence of the half-hearted, not-really-trying-too-hard, going-through-the-motions approach when it comes to this Assembly seat.
Yet on current national opinion poll figures, Labour really ought to win in Croydon and Sutton. Polling numbers suggest a 16,000-vote winning margin.
The candidate interviews were delayed, according to senior Labour sources, because Henson was unavailable during half-term week. With London Region now having conducted its interviews, it announced its shortlist yesterday, leaving the local parties precious little time to arrange any kind of hustings to give the candidates an opportunity to make a case for themselves.
Or in Henson’s case, put off members from voting for her.
Given the shenanigans around the new Croydon East Constituency Labour Party, where London Region has installed Henson’s “hubby” (her word, not ours), Mark, as its treasurer, and not allowed the members to have any role so far in selecting their parliamentary candidate, the way the Assembly selection process has been handled will surprise no one.
In a note sent to members, Labour officials said, “in line with selection procedures, the candidates will shortly be granted access to membership data for the CLP to enable them to contact members about the selection process. Candidates must adhere to the code of conduct. We will also circulate a statement from each of the shortlisted candidates prior to ballots being issued”.
And they confirmed that the Henson IT company piece of kit, Anonyvoter, will be used in a selection process involving one of the company’s directors.
“The selection will take place via an OMOV ballot via Anonyvoter, the party’s approved ballot platform… Ballots will be sent out to members via Anonyvoter on Friday 24 November 2023 with a deadline of 5pm on Monday 27 November.”
Read more: Questions asked over Town Hall Mayor’s business deal
Read more: King ends front-bench sinecures for most Newman numpties
Read more: Blairites stage factional coup to oust Fisher from CLP post
Read more: Labour councillor’s leaflet causes anger in Addiscombe
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