Is Louisa Woodley, Labour’s candidate for the Croydon and Sutton London Assembly seat, being a little too bold in launching her campaign in Kenley this afternoon, right on the doorstep of incumbent Steve “I’m Worth It” O’Connell?
Starting her bid for City Hall in the quiet lanes of the leafy Godstone Valley might seem just too eccentric for words for some. Perhaps it’s just an attempt to get up the nose of Croydon’s very own Six-Figure Pound Man, O’Connell, who lives in Kenley.
Even in O’Connell’s prosperous backyard, his six-figure public authority salary might cause a little resentment, so that’s a possible issue on the doorstep.That’s not least because, in the past, the bionic councillor has invited the electors to discuss the cash he gets from the public purse.
“My allowances are a proper subject for debate and it is right to discuss it. It is not for me to judge it – it’s a matter for the residents. They vote me in,” O’Connell told the Mail, somewhat self-satisfied some might think. “I think I’m worth it.”
Thing is, the Mail and Inside Croydon have of late been underestimating O’Connell. Or at least underestimating the amount he is paid.
Earlier this year, the Daily Mail reported O’Connell as the highest paid Councillor in the country on £118,000 a year in publicly funded “allowances” with four political jobs – Croydon Council, London Assembly, a member of the Met Police Authority, and chairman of the MPA‘s finance committee. Busy man.
Updated figures recently released by the MPA suggests that O’Connell is now getting £30,781 from them alone. His Croydon “allowance” since April is £44,780 (it is unclear whether O’Connell collects all this). London Assembly now pays him £53,439. That all adds up to £129,000. Nice work if you can get it.
With Woodley starting her campaign in Kenley, if Labour are making a serious and prolonged effort to get votes that far south suggests that they are trying to give O’Connell a run for his (very considerable amount of) money.
The Conservatives have normally romped home here in Croydon and Sutton largely because they are up against split opposition: in Croydon, the “anti-Tory” vote goes to Labour; but in Sutton, the non-Tories vote LibDem. Labour did come second last time.
But O’Connell could find himself among the first casualties of the ConDem coalition in central government. The meltdown in the LibDem vote nationally, if reflected in Sutton, could make Labour the clear and obvious challenger this time.
But can Labour really get that message out in a seat that stretches from Kenley to Upper Norwood and all the way across to Worcester Park?
If the sands do though begin to shift and Liberal Democrat voters give up on a lost cause and use their ballot paper to vote tactically for Labour, O’Connell may yet find himself coping with just two jobs instead of four next May.
- Croydon’s Tories look £50m gift horse in the mouth over EZ (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon was vulnerable after being short-changed for decades (insidecroydon.com)
- GLA Candidates (lukeakehurst.blogspot.com)
- Attacks on Nick Clegg cost us dear, admit Liberal Democrats (telegraph.co.uk)