Thursday 23 November 2023

Carnage in Croydon

I've told this story here before, so please indulge me. Many years ago, a comrade of mine went for selection in a seat designated by Labour as safe. The long and short listing exercise was observed, and they made it to the final three. Not wanting to mess about, they got the members' details and visited the first house on the list. They introduced themselves, and was told politely but firmly to save their patter. Why? Because they'd returned their voting papers by post the previous week, several full days before the shortlisting for the ballot was officially finalised. Knowing the selection was blatantly stitched for a favoured son of the machine, my comrade refused to participate in the farce, packed their bags, and went home. There might have been some shadenfreude when the party lost the seat at the subsequent election.

Stitch ups are as Labour as the NHS, SureStart centres, and bombing people. We've seen left wingers excluded from selection votes on the flimsiest of pretexts, and sitting officials barred from re-standing on spurious grounds. Because selections are screened right from Keir Starmer's office, via the ministrations of Morgan McSweeney and his allies and subordinates, nothing happens without their knowledge. Where stitching has to be done because someone left wing or someone whose face doesn't fit (i.e. allies of Angela Rayner), this clique nods it through. Any complaints about dodgy practice go straight in the bin.

Which makes the selection shenanigans in Croydon all the more interesting. The Croydon East constituency has been resurrected following the Tories' boundary review, and is a dead cert win for Labour at the next election. The CLP for the new seat doesn't exist yet, and so London region - a notoriously factional structure - imposed interim officers to decide the long list and the short list. Party democracy, such as it is, was entirely circumvented. As a result, four candidates got the rubber stamp. These included one Joel Bodmer, who happens to be a close ally of Steve Reed, the Croydon North MP and Starmer's shadow for DEFRA. Like Reed, Bodmer has a chequered history with the local Labour Party who, you might recall, bankrupted the council after turning the local authority into a property speculator.

But allowing the members to freely make a choice from the shortlisted four is too much democracy for the powers behind the scenes. Complaints reached the ears of Michael Crick, who has spent the last 18 months running a Twitter account publicising and investigating party selections. Earlier on Thursday, he reported that complaints had been made to London region and national HQ alleging fraud and tampering with membership lists. One member complained that an email address claiming to be her had requested an online vote, while noting she knew of others in the same boat. She also added she had left the party a year ago. Crick also says he has been handed the membership list that is given to shortlisted candidates for canvassing, noting it has been tampered with. "Dozens of members have had home addresses changed in ways which suggest systematic not human error." Egregious stitching in other words. However, following publicity the selection meeting has been postponed and all votes cast voided, with region announcing it will undertake an investigation/cover up.

Last year, Labour changed its rule book to say fairness and natural justice had no bearing on the expulsion process. That was merely a case of saying the quiet part out loud when it came to the party's operation in general. However, the Croydon case is so blatant and corrupt precisely because the McSweeney clique and their little helpers have grown accustomed to doing things their own way. The party is theirs, they are judge and jury so it doesn't matter how amateurish and in-your-face their stitching is because they control the process. But this relies on two things: that not enough people care and the media turn a blind eye. Crick is a famous and retired mainstream journalist, but his reporting has brought some of the Labour right's dark arts out into the light. And because the carnage in Croydon is so bad, is linked to a key Starmer lieutenant, and goes all the way up to his own office there is plenty here for an increasingly desperate Tory party looking for anything they can hit Labour with in this pre-pre-election period. And the likes of the Mail and Express to get their teeth into.

In this case, the ducking and a diving of Labour's new "grown up" politics is potentially very damaging and could, if it becomes widely known, knock holes in Starmer's reputation as "Mr Rules". Most people reading this know he's deceitful and shameless, but many don't. And already with the prospect of his replacing Rishi Sunak regarded an inevitability absent any enthusiasm or hope for something better, this is another one of those moments that chip away at his legitimacy. Even before he's entered office.

1 comment:

JJ said...

It's interesting, with the rebellions in places like Bristol and Newham.

When JC was leader, there was a huge upswell of people out knocking on doors. Labour in particular needs its "ground game" to counteract the media. Those lovely, dedicated people I think have all gone.

What with the Voter ID and boundary changes as well, I think Sir Kid Starver isn't going to have the walkover he expects at the next General Election.