Beaten by the boundaries? Barwell would be wrong to run

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Did the local MP really say that? Contributing editor ANDREW PELLING sets aside his disbelief to crunch the numbers on how the votes might stack up for any re-jigged Croydon Central seat

My editor always groans whenever I drag up the old saying that “you never want to believe what you read in the newspapers”. But these days it seems that even the BBC gets things wrong.

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central. But for how much longer?

So I firmly believe that there can be no way that Croydon Central’s MP, Gavin Barwell, was so crass or indeed so straightforward as to tell the Croydon Sadvertiser what they have reported him as saying, that he would be happy to see the back of his constituents in Croydon Central and instead represent the people where he lives, locally, in Croydon South. This must surely have been a mistake.

Croydon South is a parliamentary seat so safe for the Conservatives that it even returned Richard Ottaway as an MP after his extensive problems with his exes. The Sadvertiser reports that Barwell has said that he’s off to pastures new if the latest proposed boundary changes (as we reported last month, here) goes through, and he’s just terribly sorry for abandoning the people in the seven out of eight wards that would remain in the Croydon Central constituency after changes.

It’s not as if the boundary changes are that radical. The latest change proposed for Central just swaps Fairfield ward for Selhurst ward.

It’s not a very tidy proposal from the boundary commissioners. The inclusion of South Norwood ward instead of Selhurst would have been an easier fit in the new Croydon East.

If the Sadvertiser quote is correct Barwell seems to be misjudging the politics and the electoral figures in betraying his nervousness about continuing to enjoy the support of his electors.

The newspaper says he’d go to Croydon South, although Tory party members there might well prefer Boris over Gavin, genuine posh boy Eton over minor public school Trinity. According to the Sadvertiser, Barwell is being presumptuous in assuming that Croydon South Tories would take him in all circumstances.

Boris Johnson: a subliminal message (by the London Mayor’s standards) on Richard Ottaway’s decision to retire as Croydon South MP?

Barwell’s attributed comments have obviously encouraged Labour, who will likely make Croydon’s middle seat – whether it’s called Croydon Central or Croydon East if the boundary changes go through – an all-women’s shortlist when selecting their candidate for 2015.

But does Barwell need to be so downbeat (reportedly) or poor in his judgement of the electoral runes?

Analysis of the prospects in the seat is complicated by my own candidacy in the 2010 General Election as an independent. However, conveniently, that General Election coincided with the 2010 local elections, so these figures can be used as a means of making an analysis with the effects of the independent candidacy washed out, and with the impact of boundary changes more easily measured.

Barwell won the 2010 Croydon Central seat for the Conservatives with a majority of 2,969.

Looking at the average number of votes per party divided by the number of candidates fielded by a party in the multi-member ward council elections shows the Conservatives would have got about an extra 600 votes on their majority had there not been what Tories regarded as my unhelpful independent intervention (I had been elected for the Conservative party with a 75-vote majority over Labour’s sitting MP, Geraint Davies, in 2005). Other varying factors between local and national elections could also be considered, including an apparent greater willingness for Croydon voters to vote Green in local elections compared to the parliamentary election.

Detailed analysis of the 2010 local election results show that even with the inclusion of Selhurst and the exclusion of Fairfield ward – that is, by shaping the parliamentary seat as the boundary commissioners now propose – Barwell would have carried the day in 2010 with a projected 726 majority using the local election figures.

In such circumstances, Barwell’s “I’m out of here” remark attributed to him by a local newspaper seems even more ill-judged. There is little doubt that the next General Election could be as indecisive in its national outcome as the last, and the Conservatives would need to hold on to the newly configured Croydon East seat in 2015 even if they just want to stay as partners in a coalition government, let alone win an outright majority in the Commons.

Barwell’s putting up the white flag in such a winnable seat might just not be permitted by Conservative party HQ.

Local Conservatives seem to have forgotten that social housing in Fairfield’s Old Town and to the north of the town centre has a lot in common with Selhurst, so the proposed swap is not so damaging to their prospects. Comparatively lower turnout among socially excluded voters in Selhurst also aids the Conservatives.

There is such a strong base for Barwell in the current seat, he ought to have no justification for being allowed to go on the “chicken run”, the name given to MPs who scoot from one constituency to another in a desperate attempt to prolong their parliamentary careers.

Even with cautious and slight anti-Tory bias assumptions that postal votes shares were equally distributed by party in proportion to total votes cast, in the London Assembly elections in May, the Croydon Central seat still voted Conservative in what was for the Tories a disastrous party list vote. This does not seem like a place that the Conservatives should allow their parliamentary candidate to abandon.

Current opinion polls would bury any Tory candidate in Croydon Central or Croydon East, but that could well be mid-term blues, and most incumbent parties usually recover by the time they go to the polls. Even Gordon Brown did much better in May 2010 than was expected by his glum MPs in January 2010.

If there were elections held this week, Labour majorities would be as follows, based on national opinion polls:

  • Current Croydon Central –  2,135
  • New Croydon East – 4,837

Of course, over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will get the ultimate in opinion polls, nationally and locally, with no fewer than six by-elections across the country, including Croydon North on November 29. Croydon North ought to be won by Labour with a 13,740, assuming turnout falls by one-third and there is no great impact by Respect.

The following tables provide the supporting figures that the Conservatives in Croydon really should be looking at:

2010 Local Council Election Results in Croydon Central by party

Conservative

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 2445/2171/2076 2231
Ashburton 3175/2974/2866 3005
Fairfield 2751/2589/2555 2631
Fieldway 1085/924 1005
Heathfield 3963/3912/3672 3849
New Addington 1399/1310 1355
Shirley 3765/3744/3718 3742
Woodside 1949/1913/1716 1859
  • Total Conservative vote 19,677

Labour

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 2839/2683/2497 2658
Ashburton 2234/2206/1979 2140
Fairfield 1882/1806/1749 1812
Fieldway 1812/1776 1794
Heathfield 1550/1196/1071 1272
New Addington 1390/1306 1348
Shirley 1768/1681/1673 1707
Woodside 3451/3447/3207 3368
  • Total Labour vote 16,099

Liberal Democrat

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 1569/1400/1195 1388
Ashburton 1290 1290
Fairfield 1344/1170/894 1136
Fieldway 453 453
Heathfield 1582 1582
New Addington 566 566
Shirley 1200 1200
Woodside 1136/894 1015
  • Total Liberal Democrat vote 8,630

Green

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 432/353/352 379
Ashburton 647/407/385 480
Fairfield 441/420/312 391
Fieldway 114/101 108
Heathfield 538/397/392 442
New Addington 317/174 246
Shirley 659/575/335 590
Woodside 537/421/311 423
  • Total Green vote: 3,059

Others

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 296 296
Ashburton 557/419 488
Fairfield 372/181 277
Fieldway 583/400 492
Heathfield 518/374 446
New Addington 691/496 594
Selhurst 93 93
Shirley 883/483/441 602
Woodside - -
  • Total Others vote: 3,288

Croydon Central 2010 comparative local and parliamentary results

 Votes   % share of vote % of vote in Parliamentary election
Conservative 19,677 38.77 39.5
Labour 16,099 31.72 33.5
Liberal Democrat 8,630 17.00 13.2
Green 3,059 6.03 1.2
Others 3,288 6.48 6.1
Independent 6.5
50,753

2010 Local Council Election Results in “new” Croydon East by party

Conservative

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 2445/2171/2076 2231
Ashburton 3175/2974/2866 3005
Fieldway 1085/924 1005
Heathfield 3963/3912/3672 3849
New Addington 1399/1310 1355
Selhurst 1407/1286/1240 1311
Shirley 3765/3744/3718 3742
Woodside 1949/1913/1716 1859
  • Total Conservative “vote” 18,357

Labour

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 2839/2683/2497 2658
Ashburton 2234/2206/1979 2140
Fieldway 1812/1776 1794
Heathfield 1550/1196/1071 1272
New Addington 1390/1306 1348
Selhurst 3355/3353/3324 3344
Shirley 1768/1681/1673 1707
Woodside 3451/3447/3207 3368
  • Total Labour “vote”: 17,631

Liberal Democrat

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 1569/1400/1195 1388
Ashburton 1290 1290
Fieldway 453 453
Heathfield 1582 1582
New Addington 566 566
Selhurst 1150 1150
Shirley 1200 1200
Woodside 1136/894 1015
  • Total Liberal Democrat “vote”: 8,644

Green

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 432/353/352 379
Ashburton 647/407/385 480
Fieldway 114/101 108
Heathfield 538/397/392 442
New Addington 317/174 246
Selhurst 516/515/515 516
Shirley 659/575/335 590
Woodside 537/421/311 423
  • Total Green “vote”: 3,184

Others

Ward Votes Av vote per candidate
Addiscombe 296 296
Ashburton 557/419 488
Fairfield 372/181 277
Fieldway 583/400 492
Heathfield 518/374 446
New Addington 691/496 594
Selhurst 93 93
Shirley 883/483/441 602
Woodside - -
  • Total Others vote: 3,104

“New” Croydon East local election 2010 total “results”

Votes Share of vote %
Conservative 18,357 36.05
Labour 17,631 34.62
Liberal Democrat 8,644 16.98
Green 3,184 6.25
Others 3,104 6.10
50,920

Croydon Central London Assembly party List votes May 2012

Ward CONS LAB LIB-DEM GREEN OTHER
Addiscombe 924 1423 215 329 379
Ashburton 1283 1139 145 186 517
Fairfield 1080 963 193 243 362
Fieldway 258 788 39 50 272
Heathfield 1670 732 134 207 480
New Addington 396 649 47 66 346
Shirley 1703 1008 146 170 490
Woodside 599 1605 126 236 354
Postals calculated* 3307 2648 413 435 1083
Total 11,220 11,155 1,458 1,922 4,283
Share of vote % 37.35 37.14 4.85 6.40 14.26

“New” Croydon East London Assembly party List votes May 2012

Ward CONS LAB LIB-DEM GREEN OTHER
Addiscombe 924 1423 215 329 379
Ashburton 1283 1139 145 186 517
Fairfield 1080 963 193 243 362
Fieldway 258 788 39 50 272
Heathfield 1670 732 134 207 480
New Addington 396 649 47 66 346
Selhurst 411 1834 92 164 377
Shirley 1703 1008 146 170 490
Woodside 599 1605 126 236 354
Postals calculated* 3307 2648 413 435 1083
Total 10,551 12,026 1,357 1,843 4,298
Share of vote % 35.08 39.99 4.51 6.13 14.29
* In the absence of the actual data, these figures represent the share of postal votes between the parties in the constituency, from assumptions based on the share of the votes across the borough.
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This entry was posted in Andrew Pelling, Boris Johnson, Croydon Central, Croydon South, Fairfield, Gavin Barwell MP, Richard Ottaway MP, Selhurst and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Beaten by the boundaries? Barwell would be wrong to run

  1. I fully understand Mr Barwell’s desire – assuming he has been accurately quoted – to quit his present seat in favour of one with a larger potential Conservative majority.

    Such of his utterances as I have read since his election have all been designed to toady to the leadership of his party. He makes no secret of the fact that he will do whatever it takes to win promotion, no matter how unsavoury the task.

    Call Me Dave seems not to be fooled by this. To his credit, Posh Boy No 1 appears to have rumbled Mr Barwell as a career politician of the worst kind – similar in outlook to the man he now apparently seeks to replace: Tricky Dicky Ottaway.

    As a Croydon South voter for more than 30 years, I have been lumbered with a succession of selfish, useless Members of Parliament – Clarke didn’t know where the constituency was; Ottaway wouldn’t live here. I haven’t voted for either of them, and I won’t vote for this one. And much good may it do me.

    Democracy? Don’t be silly. This is a ‘rotten borough’ in a political sense. It has many more voters than those infamous electoral contrivances of old. But large numbers of its constituents are too willing to suspend disbelief when entering the polling booths.

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