Millwall’s battle against the seizure of its land by the local Labour council has taken an unexpected twist, with a supporters’ group candidate set to stand in the general election.
The plan to compulsorily purchase land occupied by Millwall’s community trust and sell it on to an offshore-owned developer was abandoned in January. An independent inquiry into the affair is being carried out by Lord Dyson, a former Master of the Rolls but the beached scheme continues to cause uncomfortable vibrations, not least as part of a profound sense of distrust between club, supporters and local politicians.
Against this background the Millwall AMS supporters group plans to put up an independent candidate in a Lewisham constituency to highlight the continuing unhappiness at local Labour’s treatment of the borough’s chief community sporting asset.
The AMS has raised funds to back the bid, which will involve pitting an independent against one of three prospective Labour MPs. Lewisham has been a de facto one-party state in Westminster and local elections in recent years, with MPs such as Heidi Alexander, who was the local council member for regeneration when the New Bermondsey scheme was first mooted, commanding huge majorities. However, a local protest candidate could still cause some embarrassment given the strength of feeling and the wider volatility in recent elections.
The Millwall fan candidate will stand on a platform of transparency in local government and the inclusion of the club in all regeneration plans around its stadium. There has already been speculation over the identity of the Millwall-for-the-people candidate, although the Guardian understands this will not be a celebrity campaign, despite mention of Danny Baker’s name on social media.
Nor is it yet clear in which constituency the Millwall candidate will stand. Vicky Foxcroft, the MP for Lewisham and Deptford, has made a public declaration of support for the club staying in the borough. Alexander and Ellie Reeves, candidates for the safe seat of Lewisham West and Penge, have yet to make any statement.
Since the abandonment of the CPO plans some Labour politicians have made efforts to build bridges with the club and its supporters. Councillor Alan Hall of Lewisham council’s scrutiny committee remains a hugely popular figure after his work holding the bodged CPO scheme up to the light. But with mayoral elections due next year in the borough, which is home to 300,000 people, the controversy could yet cast a longer cloud.
Either way the prospect of Millwall supporters running for parliament is likely to enliven the election campaign, with talk of mass publicity, a social media “firestorm” and various banana-themed stunts. The bananas are a reference to the mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock, also known as Mayor Bananaman after the revelation the foundation he fronted as part of the CPO scheme had the same home address as the banana-chomping superhero, whose alter ego is named Eric Wimp.