Oh dear. You know things are not going as well as they might when you get a grudging expression of sympathy on Twitter from Clare Hilley, the Conservative councillor for Waddon ward whose main claim to fame remains vomiting down the front of her clothes when drunk on a little-watched reality TV show.
Louisa Woodley’s campaign for the London Assembly suffered another set-back this week when it was reported that an election leaflet distributed in Sutton for the Labour candidate stated that that borough was Tory-controlled. The LibDems have held control of Sutton for 25 years.
Ignoring the adage about when in a hole, stop digging, rather than admitting the error and explaining that it is an easy mistake to make in this era of a ConDem government, because it is impossible to tell the difference between the LibDems and Tories, instead Woodley tried to excuse the blunder by saying that she does not proof read everything that goes out carrying her name.
That is not really good enough, though, is it?
The Sutton and Croydon GLA campaign has been a struggle for Woodley, a councillor for Thornton Heath ward, almost from before it got underway.
Strong suspicions remain about dirty tricks at Croydon Town Hall, when it was leaked to a local paper that the full-time teacher had failed to attend sufficient meetings as a governor at another Croydon school, and was therefore suspended from that position. While Woodley had been traduced, since the chairman of governors had not actually properly informed her of at least one of the meetings she missed, the damage was done.
That ought to have been a warning shot, though, and Woodley and her supporters might have been on notice about negative campaigning by her Conservative opponents, and on their guard to provide them with no more ammunition. Yet last month, another leaflet was distributed in Sutton backing Ken Livingstone’s Mayoral campaign which offered five election pledges. And listed just four. Amateur night.
Of course, the realities of the Sutton and Croydon GLA constituency are that, even with Labour running at between 8 and 10 per cent ahead of the Conservatives in national opinion polls, Woodley will be doing outstandingly well on May 3 if she is able to get within 20,000 votes of the Tory incumbent, Steve O’Connell, Britain’s most overpaid local councillor.
It was, we think, PG Wodehouse who wrote that there are certain parliamentary seats in the country where the electorate would return a Pekingese dog to Westminster if someone pinned a blue rosette to its collar. What else can explain the repeated re-election of expenses-claiming MP Richard Ottaway? Welcome to the one-party state that is South Croydon.
The short-comings of the Woodley campaign offer an interesting reminder of quite what a difference funding and resources make for political parties, and the staffing, management and running in elections.
While the Conservatives receive donations of millions of pounds from wealthy benefactors, such as the tax avoider Lord Ashcroft, and flogging off dinners at No10 Downing Street to industrialists with axes to grind for £250,000 a time, the other parties have to depend on a 21st century version of handing around the collecting tin.
The LibDems, despite being partners in the national government, are unable to afford to put up candidates in every constituency in the local elections on May 3. Their GLA election leaflet distributed in Sutton and Croydon in the past few days is a generic London one, featuring their Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick but without mentioning by name the candidate for the London Assembly.
As for other parties, such as the Greens and UKIP, as far as election funding is concerned, it is as if they have to enter the Grand National riding the winner of the Croydon donkey Derby.
What Labour has been able to do, though, is put together one of the best, most convincing and emotive election broadcasts to have been seen for many years in support of Livingstone. We think it is well worth a watch.
It is interesting that in the negative campaign being run by the Conservatives, enthusiastically supported by the London Evening Boris, the broadcast prompted not a discussion of the policies of the two leading candidates for Mayor, but focused on whether or not the participants in the film were “actors”, because the producers had reasonably paid them their out-of-pocket expenses, that they re-shot some sequences and, in the final edit, used the best bits. All of which is common practice for people working in television, even for news producers.
It is also what many people might regard as doing a proper job to present your arguments and policies. Perhaps the Tories would prefer the Labour campaign to be badly done, unprofessional and full of mistakes. That would certainly distract further from the lack of policy and the poor performance record of Boris Johnson and the likes of Steve O’Connell since they have been in office at City Hall.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Will Ken promise to block Beddington incinerator scheme? (insidecroydon.com)
- Sutton LibDem councillor switches to Labour over incinerator (insidecroydon.com)
- “Justice prevails” for Assembly candidate Woodley (insidecroydon.com)