A LABOUR councillor has avoided being deselected from standing in this month's elections, despite being exposed as a member of a conservative party.
An emergency meeting of Labour members in Thornton Heath was called last week to decide whether Matthew Kyeremeh should be taken off the ticket due to his involvement with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ghana.
The right-of-centre NPP is allied to the Conservative Party in the UK and even congratulated David Cameron on his election victory in 2010.
Cllr Kyeremeh was secretary of the party's UK branch until March this year and took trips to Ghana which coincided with Presidential election campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
A revealing letter, leaked to the Advertiser, shows Labour's branch secretary in Thornton Heath has "serious concerns" about Cllr Kyeremeh's political leanings.
Adrian Dennis fears if Labour "scrape" a victory on May 22, Cllr Kyeremeh could be offered a deal by the Tories to switch allegiances, handing them control of the council.
These concerns prompted an urgent selection meeting on Tuesday last week where Cllr Kyeremeh managed to persuade members not to deselect him.
In a statement e-mailed to the Advertiser this week, Cllr Kyeremeh said: "I'm glad I had the opportunity to explain to ward members why I joined the NPP in Ghana, and that [they] saw no contradiction with my membership of the Labour Party in Croydon.
"I'm looking forward to continuing to work for a Labour victory in Thornton Heath in May."
The 16-page letter passed to the Advertiser, understood to have been written by branch secretary Mr Dennis, shows he has grave concerns.
Mr Dennis said Cllr Kyeremeh's "extraneous political activities" have the potential to do "serious reputational damage" to the party, would "adversely affect the election campaign" and risks Labour's ability to "operate confidently and efficiently after the elections".
"The party needs to act quickly to manage and avoid these unacceptable risks," wrote Mr Dennis, who could not be reached for a comment this week.
Cllr Kyeremeh has held a senior position in the conservative NPP since at least 2007 and evidence of his involvement in Ghanaian election campaigns since then is readily available on the internet.
"In recent years Matthew has taken a number of long absences from Croydon to visit Ghana," states Mr Dennis's report.
"Each time he informed us that this was solely to visit his father who was ill and, in 2014, to attend his funeral.
"It was later brought to our attention that these departures coincided with the Presidential election campaigns in Ghana.
"It was possible to see from the NPP website in Ghana that Matthew had taken part, as the delegate from the UK, in the election campaigns."
"We do not know if this is mere coincidence," the report later adds, "However the impact is clear enough. His absences reduce Labour's voting power in the chamber."
Cllr Kyeremeh's time off has meant he missed votes at full council meetings. During one absence in 2012, Mr Dennis said party members were "surprised" to find Cllr Kyeremeh, a learning assistant at Coulsdon College, had rented out his home.
He believes Cllr Kyeremeh could be persuaded to "cross the floor" by the promise of a paid position within the Tory party.
He wrote: "What has brought urgency to these concerns were comments earlier this year about the likelihood of Labour scraping a narrow victory. What would stop the Conservatives, who know of his involvement [in the NPP], offering him a modest special responsibility allowance to give them the double whammy of control over Croydon and a foothold in Thornton Heath?
"When considered in the context of his often claimed lack of money...the likelihood of him 'crossing the floor' would seem less in doubt."
Labour leader Tony Newman said there were "lots of reasons" to believe Cllr Kyeremeh's trips to Ghana were to visit his father rather than to campaign for the NPP.
He said he was satisfied that the positions of the two parties were compatible and that his councillor would not join the Tories.
He said: "Matthew has made it crystal clear that his loyalties are to the Labour Party both in the country and in Croydon."
Last month a special report by the Advertiser exposed infighting within the Labour group, including the leak of documents to the Conservatives and a serving councillor taking the party to court.'If the Tories offer me a deal, I will say no' MATTHEW Kyeremeh defended his involvement with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and insisted his trips to Ghana were to see his family. He told the Advertiser he had not mentioned membership of the NPP during or after being selected because he was "not asked". "I did not consider the information necessary as I did not find anything wrong with my membership of a political party in Ghana, which [is as] democratic and progressive as the Labour Party is here," he said. Cllr Kyeremeh said he visited Ghana about "once a year" to see his family and that, in 2012, his father – who passed away in February - had become seriously ill, leading to several absences while he returned home to spend time with him. Asked how he responded to claims he had been campaigning for the NPP, he replied: "When in Ghana I do what any political activist and a member party will do, depending on what is happening at the time." Cllr Kyeremeh added that branch secretary Adrian Dennis's claims that his financial situation could motivate him to join the Conservatives were "unfounded" and the product of a "wild imagination". Cllr Kyeremeh said he would reject any offer of a deal, adding that there was "emphatically no risk" in his selection. When asked about a potential deal, Conservative council leader Mike Fisher said: "Matthew is standing as a Labour candidate and I can only assume he believes in the ideals of the Labour party. "I just find it incredible that information was freely available, and plenty of other people knew, but they didn't pick up on it until the last few days. I've known for two or three years. "Then again, it's indicative of the fact that Labour are fighting like rats in a sack at the minute."