John Cryer MP’s Election Agent, Ian McKenzie, and the local Labour membership: the rift widens

Reports emanating from Labour insiders reveal that John Cryer’s Election Agent, Ian McKenzie, has spectacularly alienated much of the local party membership, to the extent that some now see relations as irreparable.

Mr McKenzie has served as Agent in all three elections since 2010, after Mr Cryer was parachuted into Leyton and Wanstead by his trade union Unite in a contentious selection process that saw no local candidates shortlisted.

However, the one-time assistant to former Labour deputy leader John Prescott has courted controversy almost from the start. Thus, shortly after the 2010 contest, for example, the local party treasurer struggled to extract from him the expenses return necessary to comply with election regulations, while his wider antics persuaded another member to urge Mr Cryer to intervene – something that he promised to do, but then, to the surprise and dismay of local Labour officials, kicked into the long grass.

More recently, dissatisfaction with Mr McKenzie has reached new levels, as the following litany from a 2017 internal document amply illustrates:

‘members have complained about Ian’s consistently and openly anti-Corbyn rhetoric, even when members of the public were in the campaign office. Apparently, Ian also made comments about other members of this CLP that simply shouldn’t be made, especially in an office where members of the public were often present. Clearly, John needs to be made aware of Ian’s conduct and we should secure an assurance from John that he will ensure that he keeps his personal politics to himself’.

In essence, what local members question is why Mr Cryer (a) continues to rely on Mr McKenzie when there are many in their ranks who could perform the administrative duties required without causing so much rancour; and (b) as a self-styled man of the left, indulges someone from the polar opposite end of the Labour political spectrum, causing unnecessary political conflict.

Prompted by these concerns, various theories have emerged as to what exactly is going on.

Some believe that Mr Cryer’s professed leftism is in fact lightly worn, and his over-riding interest is getting re-elected, meaning that so long as this occurs, he is untroubled by any turbulence emanating from below.

Others speculate that Mr Cryer’s loyalty to Mr McKenzie stems from the fact that the latter is a good friend of the M.P.’s wife, Ellie Reeves, recently elected to the Lewisham West and Penge seat after a cosy selection deal brokered by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

Ms. Reeves certainly seems to be influential. As this blog previously reported, it was she who was rumoured to be behind Mr. Cryer’s house move to Lewisham in 2015, which broke his election promise to live in Leyton and Wanstead, and consequently disappointed so many local party members. And, of course, Ms. Reeves has the added clout that stems from having an illustrious sister, Rachel, ex-Shadow Cabinet member no less, sitting close by on the House of Commons benches.

Whatever the truth, one thing is for sure.

The Cryer-Reeves dynasty is unarguably in the ascendancy.

And so it is odds on that local rank and file Labour members will no more be listened to by Mr. Cryer in the future than they are today.

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