The excellent Gareth Davies posted a story on The Croydon Advertiser website last night saying that the Labour Party have refused Val Shawcross permission to resign straight away as the London Assembly Member for Lambeth & Southwark if she gets elected as the next MP for Croydon North. They are apparently short of cash and can't afford an expensive London Assembly by-election so have insisted that she wait until 2014 (when the by-election could be held at the same time as the Council elections).
If this is confirmed, it is a major blow to her chances of getting the job.
People will have differing views about whether it is right for someone to be an MP and an Assembly member at the same time. It has been done before, though my own view is that this isn't ideal - there are bound to be occasions when there is a clash and you have to miss something important.
But when Andrew Pelling did it he was at least an MP for Croydon and a London Assembly member for Croydon. Val would be the MP for Croydon North and the London Assembly member for Lambeth & Southwark. There are a number of issues - for example, the local government funding formula or the formula for allocating Metropolitan Police resources - where the interests of these areas are in conflict. In both cases, Croydon (and some other outer London boroughs) are getting a poor deal because the system favours inner London. So what would she do? Take the side of her constituents in Croydon North and campaign for changes to these formulae, back her constituents in Lambeth and Southwark and support the status quo or - as one Labour activist damningly suggested on Twitter last night - declare that she was conflicted and refuse to do either? She is going to be letting some or all of her constituents down whatever she does.
To be fair to her, she's a smart enough politician to know that this is a big problem. That's why she originally told The Advertiser that she would resign "as quickly as possible" and wouldn't draw two salaries during the " short overlap period". And that's why when pressed on this issue by Gareth yesterday she apparently put the phone down and didn't take his subsequent calls - she needs a bit of time to figure out a line.
And lest anyone still thinks this is just me stirring, the article quotes Labour's Chief Whip on Croydon Council, Pat Ryan, as saying:
"Last time we spoke, I asked her if she would step down from the Assembly and she said yes. I guess I took (the date) as read. I would expect most of our members and everyone else connected with politics would agree that you can only do one job to do it well and that's what we would expect from anyone who is elected".
It'll be interesting to see how this one develops.