Breaking: Steve Reed selected as Labour candidate for Croydon North by-election
LAMBETH Council leader Steve Reed has been selected as Labour's candidate for the Croydon North by-election.
Reed, 48, saw off competition from former Croydon Council leader Val Shawcross, Thornton Heath councillor Louisa Woodley, former Downing Street aide Faz Hakim and Brighton's Simon Burgess at a selection meeting at Praise House, in London Road, this afternoon (Saturday).
Members of Croydon North Labour Party told the Advertiser Reed's passionate speech had tipped the vote in his favour.
Following his selection Reed said: "I am just so incredibly humbled that members have put their trust in me to stand up for this constituency and to be their candidate. I will give it my absolute best.
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"I promise them I will repay their trust by working night and day for the people of Croydon North and for them as local party members and the task in hand now is to defend Malcolm's legacy by getting the biggest possible majority for Labour in the coming by-election."
After a ten-day campaign each candidate had five minutes to speak in front of members of Croydon North Labour Party before 15 minutes of questions from the floor.
Members then voted using a single transferable vote system. If no candidate reached 50 per cent second preferences would have been taken into account.
Details of the result and turnout have yet to be released but it understood to have been close between Reed and Shawcross.
Woodley, selected after a strong showing in May's London Assembly elections, said: "I am sure Steve will be a fantastic candidate. The people who heard his speech said he spoke with passion.
"Of course I'm disappointed that Val did not get it. As you know, I felt that if I did not get selected then I hoped Val would because she has the historical link to Croydon.
"I'm more disappointed for Val than for myself. Then again from Steve the members obviously liked his passion and what he was going to do. It was a very close vote."
Simon Burgess, who was quietly confident ahead of the meeting, said: "It was always going to be a difficult choice between Steve and Val in particular.
"I was pleased with how my speech went. Members of the national executive committee (NEC) have said it was one of the strongest shortlists they had seen and I genuinely believe that.
"I got the impression it was wide opening during the meeting but looking at the ballot papers afterwards it clearly wasn't. I talked about second choices but in reality I got a lot of third choices."
Shawcross's chances of being selected were dealt a blow when it emerged that, if elected, she may have had to juggle being an MP with her job on the London Assembly for two years.
The Advertiser revealed last Friday that the Labour Party had denied Shawcross, who lives in Upper Norwood, permission to immediately step down from representing Southwark and Lambeth on the Assembly because the by-election would have been too expensive.
Asked why he thought members had opted for Reed, Burgess said: "It was clearly an issue for people about Val and the Assembly. It was a difficult one.
"I think it was very close and I think with her doing that and Steve doing Lambeth made it very close."
Reed admitted the issue had been a factor but that members had chosen him because of his stance on unemployment.
He said: "I think they had an incredibly strong field of candidates. People tell me it was one of the strongest shortlists they have ever seen in a selection. They could have selected any of us and whoever it was would have been good.
"I think they liked the idea of fresh ideas from outside, though not that far away as I only live in Streatham over the border.
"We have been developing approaches that we can use to protect public services and to take the fight to the Tories both in Parliament for what they are doing nationally and in the Town Hall where they are making a real mess of this borough and this constituency.
"The message about taking action against youth unemployment was something people wanted to see done.
"Youth unemployment is higher in Croydon North than in any neighbouring constituency. Why is that? We need to sit down, work through the reasons and bring in whatever partners we can to start to tackle that issue.
"If you don't tackle the problem at its source you destroy young people's futures."
Reed plans to step down as council leader and councillor and said he will now hold discussions with party members in Lambeth as to when that will happen.
Following his victory Reed will immediately start campaigning for a by-election which is likely to be held on November 29.