Chair and secretary of campaign body resign over smears and meddling in selections by senior politicians
The Labour party’s campaigning in the London borough of Greenwich are in ‘chaos’ after the chair and procedures secretary of the party’s ‘Local Campaign Forum’ (LCF) both quit after being put in what they describe as an ‘untenable’ position.
The resignations were reported yesterday on the 853.london site, which describes interference in the selection process and that chair Cllr Peter Brooks and secretary Julie Grimble had both resigned after pressure to select candidates loyal to the borough’s right-wing council leader culminated in Brooks being accused of lying – and that two councillors with six decades of service had been deselected, with one told they were too inexperienced after being in post since the 1990s.
But Skwawkbox can also reveal the racism at the heart of the issue – and that Labour’s London office appears to be siding with the senior politicians interfering in the selections.
According to Labour sources in the area, attempts to prevent the selection of ‘unsuitable’ candidates – those not loyal to the right-wing leader – led to smears against the mostly-black panel that was interviewing candidates and its competence, in order to create an excuse for blocking selections.
Complaints to Labour’s London regional office have so far fallen on deaf ears – a phenomenon in line with previous support by London Labour for right-wingers, even those accused of outright racism.
The make-up of councillors in Greenwich is of keen importance to council leader Danny Thorpe, whose position as leader was won by just one vote in 2018.
Court transcripts revealed that the council machine had ‘sought to protect’ Tonia Ashikodi, a Thorpe ally, from Skwawkbox’s enquiries in 2018. A Skwawkbox investigation had discovered that Cllr Ashikodi was under investigation for housing fraud, yet the council repeatedly denied that any investigation was taking place. The wording of the denial was excruciating:
if there were something that has happened, the Leader of the Council never gets involved in those issues… and I’d be surprised if the Labour Party was aware of anything that may or may not be happening.Greenwich council press spokesperson
In July of the same year – two months after Thorpe’s election – Ashikodi was charged and ultimately convicted on two counts of fraud for failing to declare two homes she owned when she applied for council housing.
Now, according to Labour sources in Greenwich, the machine has decided to smear black people in order to block the selection of candidates who might, as councillors, end Thorpe’s fragile tenure – a machine, judging by the non-response of London Labour, that extends well up into the party structure.
One source said that the extent of the desperation to secure a ‘friendly’ council can be seen in the fact that the two officials who resigned are also on the right of the party and would normally be considered supportive of Thorpe’s leadership – and that the moves come as part of a broad assault on the positions of left councillors, with people of colour and women being especially targeted.
The area’s representative on Labour’s Regional Executive Committee was suspended and faux-demoted by Unison after her interference in the union’s general secretary election to ensure the re-election of the right-wing incumbent was condemned by a judge.
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