For the last few months, there has been an increasing phenomenon of ‘centrist’ candidates claiming pro-Corbyn credentials in the apparent hope of getting Corbyn supporters to vote for them. This was seen very clearly – and unsuccessfully – in the recent Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) elections where Gloria de Piero, who last year begged S*n readers to join Labour to vote against Corbyn, suddenly started referring to Corbyn in her new campaign statement.
The selection of Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Lewisham closes in just under a week’s time, on 19 September. Many of the five shortlisted hopefuls claim to be supporters of the Labour leader. The SKWAWKBOX looks at the candidates and the evidence for where they stand.
New Cross councillor Paul Maslin has campaigned on his local roots and entrepreneurial success. He is up front about his past voting record:
Mr Maslin appears, according to Land Registry document TGL181493, to retain an interest in a property on Deptford High Street, the ground floor of which was leased to a chain of betting shops. Nothing untoward in the transaction, but itmight count against him in the eyes of Labour members when former Corbyn aide Matt Zarb-Cousin is campaigning against #fixed odds betting terminals.
Locals tell the SKWAWKBOX that his performances at hustings so far have not generated much support.
Egan is council cabinet member for housing. His recent Twitter timeline contains a number of shares of tweets by Jeremy Corbyn. When asked whether he is a member of anti-Corbyn pressure group Progress, Egan replied that he is not. However, when asked whether he has ever been a member of Progress, he has not – so far – replied:
However, Lewisham Council’s register of interests shows that he was previously a member:
Mr Egan is said to have claimed that his former partner was a Progress member and applied to the organisation on his behalf without his knowledge.
Egan also appears to be close to well-known anti-Corbyn figures and has received their vote and public endorsement, for example:
In 2015, Egan was also co-signatory to a letter to the local Lewisham Mercury, which described the consequences of a potential Corbyn win in the 2015 leadership race as ‘unappealing’ and damaging to the Labour Party – and urged members to vote for anyone-but-Corbyn:
The New Cross councillor is the only woman in the contest and the only BAME (Black/minority ethnic) candidate, both of which should work in her favour with members. However, her history with regard to the leader of the Labour Party and its direction under him may work against, as the images in the tweet below appear to show Ms Dacres, far left and far right respectively, supporting challenger Owen Smith during last year’s leadership contest:
A pivotal figure in Ms Dacres’ campaign is Cllr Joe Dromey. Mr Dromey’s tweets appear to indicate he is conducting, or at least heavily personally involved in, her campaign:
Mr Dromey is the son of ‘centrist’ Labour MPs Jack Dromey and Harriet Harman – but has his own history with regard to Labour’s leader. During the 2016 leadership challenge, he tweeted positively about Owen Smith’s electability and negatively (and as we now know, wrongly) about Corbyn’s:
More directly still, Dromey put his signature to an open letter supporting Smith’s candidacy, which was published on the Labour List website:
Ms Dacres also attracts the support of other so-called moderates, for example Labour MP Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips, who famously said she’d ‘knife [Corbyn] in the front’ and told Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott to ‘fuck off’:
Interestingly, Ms Dacres also has connections to betting chains, having reported last May that she accepted hospitality at Millwall’s League 1 playoff final from bookmaker William Hill:
Described as ‘a bit of a technocrat’ by locals, Bellingham councillor Hall has the central support of a number of unions. However, there has been some dispute about this and many local union members, along with Lewisham Momentum and many Labour branches, appear to support a different candidate:
Mr Hall also claims to have the personal support of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell:
The SKWAWKBOX could not find any mention online by Mr Hall of how he voted in the two Labour leadership elections.
As the graphic immediately above suggests, councillor for Telegraph Hill ward Bell appears to be the candidate with the most support from local Corbyn supporters. His support for the Labour leader appears to date back to before Corbyn became leader and Bell has been up front about it:
Bell’s popularity will be boosted among any members concerned about the proliferation of gambling establishments in the area by the fact that he also has the support of anti-gambling campaigner and former Corbyn aide Matt Zarb-Cousin:
His popularity is unlikely to be dented by the fact that Bell was the only objector when the council controversially put a Compulsory Purchase Order on land belonging to Millwall Football Club, which is supported by local residents. The council later withdrew the Order and is investigating its own conduct, putting Bell on the right side of a thorny local issue.
Locals also say that Bell has performed well at hustings and that he has run a ‘high road’ campaign in spite of some suggestions of bullying behaviour online by supporters of some other candidates and even candidates themselves.
There is concern among local left-wing members about the risk that left votes might be split. However, as the election is conducted on a preference vote basis, they hope that Mr Hall’s second-preference votes will fall to Bell if he is knocked out in the first or second round as many anticipate.
There are also concerns that some – possibly many – members have not received ballot papers.
With 6 days of voting still to go, Labour supporters in Lewisham still have time to influence which candidate will represent them in the mayoral contest and those who have not yet received their ballots should contact their regional Labour office urgently to ensure they can participate in the decision.
The contest closes next Tuesday, 19 September.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.