Ten things we have learned from the 2014 Town Hall elections


So the results are in. And a thoroughly fascinating few weeks we have had in Croydon leading up to yesterday’s local elections.

Croydon has no UKIP councillors, or councillors from any party other than Labour or the Conservatives. The LibDems and Greens have cause to be as disappointed by their polling yesterday as the ousted Tories.

The final outcome, of Labour having 40 council seats and Conservatives 30, is reckoned to be Labour’s best performance in Croydon elections, leapfrogging the results gained in 1994 because of boundary changes.

Croydon's councillors 2014

We tied up our live election blog at 9am, before the recount of the poll in Ashburton ward confirmed that Andrew Rendle, Stephen Mann and Maddie Henson had secured the biggest win of the night for Labour (to enjoy the full 11-hour version, note-by-note, half-guess by half-guess, click here and scroll to the bottom of the article first and work your way upwards through the updates).

But Labour’s win in Waddon, another three gains from the Tories for new(ish) councillors Joy Prince, Robert Canning and Andrew Pelling, was also mightily close and hugely significant.

What have we learned from the local election results in Croydon and further afield?

Knocked out: Winston McKenzie

Knocked out: Winston McKenzie

1, Winston McKenzie is an electoral liability, even for UKIP: The “Croydon Carnival” catastrophe earlier this week may have cost Nigel Farage’s party an even better outcome in the polling booths on Thursday. Imagine that, Mike Fisher…

But surely the time has come for someone to throw in the towel on former boxer McKenzie’s political career to stop him taking any further punishment? Can Farage ease McKenzie out without being accused of, err, being racist?

2, Croydon Council CEO Nathan Elvery has all the organisational abilities of … Winston McKenzie: The count was staged in the wrong venue and was under-staffed, the whole thing taking far longer than ought to have been the case. The returning officer, Elvery, should take full responsibility.

Nigel Farage: might he look to stand in Croydon Central at the 2015 General Election?

Nigel Farage: might he look to stand in Croydon Central at the 2015 General Election?

3, Might Nigel Farage choose uber-marginal Croydon Central for his bid to become an MP next year? It is unlikely, but not impossible.

UKIP’s best local election performances in the south of England yesterday came in Essex, but the UKIP leader has strongly denied that he will stand in Basildon or Thurrock. “They don’t need me,” he declaimed. “And besides, I’m from south of the river.”

It’s “sarf of the river”, Nige, but we wouldn’t expect a Dulwich College boy to know that.

Nonetheless, with its Con-Lab head-to-head marginal nature, Croydon Central might just fit the bill for the anti-politics professional politician. It would require Peter Staveley, UKIP’s chairman in Croydon Central and South, to stand aside, having been selected a year ago. By six other members.

Were Farage to home in on Croydon Central, with Lunar House for his regular anti-immigation photo-ops, it could be Gavin Barwell’s worst nightmare.

Gavin Barwell: well, that went well, didn't it?

Gavin Barwell: well, that went well, didn’t it?

4, Gavin Barwell’s already worried. Very worried: In Croydon Central’s council wards, Labour won 32,269 votes, the Tories 31,015 votes, or 35.3 per cent Labour and 33.5 per cent Conservative.

And 17.5 per cent went to UKIP.

5, Barwell’s not the campaign genius he’d like people to think he is: Disgruntled and unelected Conservative candidates were grumbling that Barwell’s election strategy had left their party’s reducing resources too thinly spread. The “Margarine Strategy”, the ousted Tories were calling it.

Having boasted immodestly that he was supervising the local council campaign as a way of starting his own bid for re-election to parliament in 2015, Barwell focused much of the effort on regaining Addiscombe ward from Labour. The Tory vote in that ward was indeed up, but not enough to win the contest, and done possibly at the expense of council seat losses in New Addington, Ashburton and Waddon. Now five of Croydon Central’s eight wards are held by Labour. Top job, Gav!

6, Postal votes make on-the-day polling very difficult: Checks at three key polling stations through yesterday, with its thunder storms and showers, suggested a turn-out of less than 30 per cent. Local elections and a rainy day are a poor mix for a good turn-out.

Yet after the votes were counted, the ward turn-outs were consistently above 30 per cent, and in one ward more than 40 per cent.

7, Mike Fisher and Croydon’s senior Tories have to learn to take responsibility: The florid-faced one, Barwell and any other Tory who had some sort of role for the running of their campaign were all too quick to blame the voters for having the audacity of exercising their democratic right and voting for whom they wanted. This is not only deeply patronising, but also feeble: the Tories need to shoulder the blame for their own fate. Croydon’s Tories lost people’s trust over a whole range of issues.

Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group at Croydon Town Hall, and their nomination for Mayor, Manju Shahul Hameed

Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group at Croydon Town Hall, and their nomination for Mayor, Councillor Manju Shahul Hameed

Patrick Ratnaraja, who stood as a Tory candidate in West Thornton, said, “There is no point in just blaming UKIP for losing control of the council. The people of Croydon have not voted for us. It is time to ask ‘where did we go wrong?’ instead of blaming other parties.”

8, Winning the election was the easy bit: Labour leader Tony Newman and his team have really got their work cut out if they are to deliver on their various election pledges, with around 30 per cent funding cuts from the ConDem government coming down the tracks towards them in the next few months.

Challenging the management culture that pervades Fisher’s Folly among the council’s senior staff will make that even trickier. But one of our moles at council HQ was in touch this morning as the full picture emerged: “Oh joy!” he said.

“I am sure there will be some very senior officers in the council who are known as Phil Thomas’s ‘yes’ men, people like Tony Brooks, Steve Iles and Nathan Elvery himself, who will be running scared this morning.”

Councillor Emily Benn, pictured with her late grandfather Tony

Councillor Emily Benn, pictured with her late grandfather Tony

9, Being called “Benn” remains a positive benefit at an election: Emily Benn became the fifth generation of her family to win elected office. The 24-year-old granddaughter of the late Tony Benn, the former Labour government minister, topped the poll in West Thornton, ahead of some established Labour councillors, with 2,462 votes.

Notably, while Croydon’s Tories made much fuss about their “youthful” candidates in the election, even including one schoolboy standing in Norbury – who at least got 600 votes more than UKIP’s token Polish candidate – most of these “fresh bloods” were given impossible tasks of winning in Labour strongholds in the north of the borough.

Labour’s young bloods actually got elected, and Benn, together with Oliver Lewis after running a mature campaign in New Addington, and Stephen Mann in winning in Ashburton, will now take up their seats at the Town Hall.

10, Does the World Wildlife Fund need to apply “protected species” status to LibDems in Croydon? For all Tory bleatings about “it was all UKIP’s fault”, the outcome of the elections were as much due to the utter collapse of the LibDem vote share from 2010.

Those “I agree with Nick” days seem an age ago now, as clearly many who voted for what was the third party four years ago have returned to Labour since the coalition has been in government.

On a broader basis, the results last night offered little hope of any electoral success in Croydon at any time soon for the likes of the Greens, Communists or others. For the Greens in particular, they must consider other ways to ensure that their policies can win acceptance and be put into practice.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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16 Responses to Ten things we have learned from the 2014 Town Hall elections

  1. Interesting point about worried senior officers who are considered ‘yes’ men. I’m genuinely curious whether it’s possible to build a career as a senior officer under either administration without being to some extent a ‘yes’ man or woman? And don’t some manage a fairly smooth transition by continuing to be similarly supportive, despite the changes above them?

  2. Wonderfully witty and forthright analysis – as we have come to expect from Inside Croydon. And congratulations on your rolling coverage from the count too. While the BBC was hedging its bets, you were picking up on information from poll sampling, from your political contacts, and from the candidates’ body language, all of which pointed to an impending Labour win. You called it Labour for Croydon while the BBC was saying it was too close to call, it all depended on a couple of wards etc etc. This was ground-level political reporting at its best.

  3. John Towse says:

    I am not a ukip supporter but don’t the results prove that its time the self believing main parties who run this country started listening to the people . I don’t care who is elected to run this country as long as they are runnier this country and not cowtowing to other self seeking, power crazy politicians from the four corners of Europe .Farage maybe a pillock but he does put this country first including all the varied ethnic groups who live here.

    • reddeviljp says:

      Work on your spelling, kipper, it’s ‘kowtowing’.

      Your analysis of Farage is spot on, he is ‘a pillock’. The people have spoken and they chose Labour so live with it, it’s called democracy.

  4. davidjl2014 says:

    And now the 11th thing you are about to learn. On Sunday when they count the votes for the EU elections, The Labour Party will fail miserably. Socialism will be seen to be dying, not just in Great Britain but across the whole of Europe. UKIP’s local campaign was unsuccessful in Croydon this time, but nationally it’s been amazing. The Town Hall of Croydon is just a grain of sand on the political beach, and on Sunday you will see why the future is just as bleak for Fisher and Newman as it is for Cameron and Miliband. You ain’t seen nothing yet! (and that grammar is ex Dulwich College)!

    • Not for the first time with comments from David Aston, the logic of his attempted argument collapses with his opening remark.

      This is a piece following up on the local elections. It is impossible to learn a 11th thing from the local elections based on the result from an as-yet undeclared set of results from European elections.

      We will save any analysis of the European election results until we have seen them.

      In the meantime, we will leave Mr Aston with his cracked crystal ball.

      But here is an 11th thing we learned from the Croydon local elections: UKIP’s David Aston won a grand total of 788 votes in Ashburton.

      • davidjl2014 says:

        Looks like my “cracked” crystal ball came up trumps. Just for once, report the facts. Who won the Euro elections? Go on, do it. Then rubbish it, Just like Inside Croydon does with everything it doesn’t believe in.

        • You, or your cracked crystal ball, said: “On Sunday when they count the votes for the EU elections, The Labour Party will fail miserably.”

          Here are Croydon’s European election results:

          Lab 32,439 (32.9%)
          Con 26,687 (27.1%)
          UKIP 19,560 (19.8%)
          Green 6,829 (6.9%)
          LD 3,768 (3.8%)

          Yeah. Fail miserably.

          Let’s hope you never get a job as a tipster with the Racing Post.

          • davidjl2014 says:

            Yes, The EU ELECTIONS. Remember them, they are national? They don’t just take place in Croydon do they. And UKIP won them!
            And your Racing Post comment sums up the Labour Party entirely. Look what happened when Ed Balls & Co. gambled with our economy. We finished up 1.2 trillion pounds in debt!

            • You really are 9 carat. “The EU elections… they are national”. No, they’re pan-European. The clue’s in the name.

              As it is with this website. It is Inside Croydon. Not Inside Brussels. So it is this borough with which we mainly concern ourselves. We’re sure that if you can find a grown-up friend, they might be able to explain it to you.

              And when will those of the right realise that Labour’s £1 trillion bail-out of the banks is recoverable funding, once those assets are sold-off, provided that Gideon and his willing side-kick Vince don’t do special mates’ rates like they did with the Royal Mail.

  5. There seems to be an anomaly in my copy of the results from Sanderstead ward. Unfortunately the results are still not available from the Croydon council website, so I can’t check whether I have written it down wrongly or if there might have been a transcription error in the original results sheet.

    The figure I have for the UKIP candidate in Sanderstead is 281 (which would be 6% of the number of people who voted), but if the correct figure is 1281 then it would be 29% (which is more likely because it would be comparable to the 28% which UKIP got in Heathfield, 24% in Selsdon & Ballards, and 17% in Kenley). If the UKIP vote in Sanderstead was indeed 1281 (29%), it would help to explain the fact that Sanderstead was one of only two wards in which the percentage of the vote for Labour actually went down (the other being Selsdon & Ballards).

    The figure of 281 is unlikely to be correct, because if true it would be the lowest percentage vote for UKIP in the whole borough (the only two other wards where UKIP was below 10% were Norbury (9.3%) and West Thornton (7.7%).

    I emailed Nathan Elvery on Friday to ask for clarification, but understandably I have not yet received a reply – it would be understandable if he is still asleep after the marathon count.

    P.S. I notice from the link in your article above (which I was unable to find from the normal Croydon Council homepage) that the number is given as 201, which would appear to be an additional transcription error from the 281.

    • Thanks for this, John. Not something we had noticed.

      You think it is “understandable” that your enquiry on a normal weekday regarding the conduct of an election did not get an immediate response for the returning officer? We don’t.

      The returning officer has a responsibility to ensure the elections are conducted efficiently, fairly and accurately.

      Beginning to look like Elvery failed on all three.

  6. P.S. It has also been brought to my attention that the results page linked above (which doesn’t seem to be accessible from the usual links in the Croydon Council website) also has Gerry Ryan’s vote in Selhurst as 1196 instead of 1996, and that the listings give misleading “swings” when comparing the results with 2010.

    I have worked out how they are derived as follows:
    They have worked out the percentage vote for each candidate (the number of votes for that candidate divided by the total number of ballot papers).
    Then, they have compared the first-listed candidate (in alphabetical order) in 2014 with the highest-scoring candidate of that party in 2010.

    So, for example: the three Conservative candidates in Addiscombe in 2010 were, in numerical order:

    Maria Garcia 2445 (33.1%)
    Andrew Price 2171 (29.4%)
    Robert King 2076 (28.1%)
    (out of a turnout of 7386)

    In 2014 they were, in alphabetical order:

    Partha Chatterjee 1630 (32.6%)
    David Harmes 1723 (34.5%)
    Lisa Terry 1653 (33.1%)
    (out of a turnout of 4995)

    Comparing the three pairs of candidates, in the order listed, gives a change (or “swing”) of:

    -0.5%
    +5.0%
    +5.0%

    which are the figures given on the link above as “swings”.

    I am beginning to wonder who it was that is responsible for typing up the results in such a sloppy and misleading way. Obviously it wasn’t anybody who knows anything about proper psephology or proof-reading.

    Naturally, as a pedantic psephological anorak, but also as a Conservative, I blame the sloppiness and incompetence of the Labour council which the voters of Croydon have had the impertinence to inflict upon us.

  7. I am reliably informed that the correct figure for UKIP in Sanderstead is 891.
    All of the results sheets are being double-checked and will be published on the Croydon Council website on Tuesday morning, after the bank holiday.

    The results page linked above is unofficial and not connected with Croydon Council; it seems to be from a private information company which was publishing the results on Friday as they were declared, hence the additional transcription errors noted above.

    • That’s very interesting, John. Thanks for posting. Who might be your “reliable” source of such information on the Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend?

      Lea Goddard, the council official in charge of managing the election results, assured us beforehand that the *official* results would be posted on the Croydon Council website.

      Your information suggests that the results posted online by Croydon Council – the official body organising the elections – are in fact “unofficial” and inaccurate, after the council outsourced yet another essential function, presumably to “cut costs” (ie. do it on the cheap), which has been delivered poorly and unreliably.

      When was this important job put out to tender? And was the ability to type figures accurately not included among the requirements?

  8. east1956 says:

    Now the EU election results are in we can all see how much progress UKIP has made. In my opinion there are three factors at play here;

    1. Nigel Farage & UKIP have long learned that any publicity is good publicity. Regardless of the nature of these blunders and embarrassments UKIP’s popularity has not waned. Each event attracts the media and Mr Farage enjoys every moment of the publicity. Even Mr, McKenzie’s North End appearance ensured a little bit more publicity for UKIP and crowded a less exciting, but probably more important, story from the limited TV news. (Where was the coverage for what any other party doing about housing, education, health, enterprise, employment etc etc??? Isn’t the issue of Croydon’s libraries more important that McKenzie’s clownish event?)

    2. The quality of popular political debate in UK is so appallingly bad that UKIP, with no tangible policies other than getting out of the EU and deporting all the “foreigners”, is able to attract large numbers of votes. Just exactly what is UKIP’s policy on housing given the crisis of supply & affordability, or health (I have heard that Mr Farage believes we should pay each time we visit out GP), or education, or public transport, or anything. Neither leader of the 2 major parties had the courage to debate with or really challenge Mr. Farage.

    3. Both Labour & Conservative have allowed UKIP to establish the agenda, and then chased UKIP to appear conciliatory to UKIP sympathisers thus legitimising UKIP’s stance. Let’s all be honest EU migrants are not responsible for the Banking Crisis (Didn’t our banks lend all that cash to Greece?), the Housing Crisis, the Education Crisis, the NHS Crises, or actually any Crisis. The English nation could round up all the EU migrants and deport them, and all of these issues will still be with us.

    It is time that we all stopped validating xenophobia and faced some painful realities. Even if we leave the EU most migrants will remain here, because we need them; Most EU regulation will remain in place either because it makes sense (are we really going to return to the Shops, Offices & Factories Acts?) or because in order to sell our products in the EU we will have to. In return we will be a less important ally for the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc, and less valuable trading partner for any country. How super!

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