All bets are off, as O’Connell is on cruise control for election

ANDREW PELLING, a former London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, gazes into his crystal ball to see what tomorrow’s Mayoral and GLA elections might have in store

The bookmaker Paddy Power is already paying out on a Boris win in Thursday’s election for the Mayor of London. Conservative activists will find this unhelpful if it leads to some Tory voters leaving it to others to use their vote to back Mayor Johnson.

Turnout is a key issue in analysing how this election will actually… well, turn out.

Negative campaigning is disliked by the electorate but the aggressive campaigning style of Lynton Crosby, who has masterminded Johnson’s bid for re-election, will have had its effect on voters’ desire to vote for Ken Livingstone, or indeed whether to vote at all.

Many voters are heartily disillusioned with politicians and may well just abstain. The 2008 vote saw the highest turnout of the three Greater London Authority elections. This ballot was held at the time of the peak of the financial crisis and in a political environment where there was a will to punish a long-serving Labour national government.

In 2012, it seems likely that turnout will be lower than the 49 per cent turnout in Croydon and Sutton last time.

The Granny Tax has clearly hit the over-65s vote for the Conservatives, looking at YouGov polls analysis. The over-65s are normally highly reliable in turning out to vote, and because of that relatively greater participation rate, any change in their political preferences will have an impact.

But things are not that bad for the Conservatives locally in Croydon and Sutton. The Conservatives have twice before faced GLA elections where their national opinion poll standings have been as low as the present 32 per cent.

40 per cent of voters in Croydon and Sutton appear prepared to vote for someone with a questionable record on accountability and attendance

Even in those difficult circumstances, the Conservatives in 2000 and 2004 were clear winners at around 40 per cent of the vote.

With traditionally very weak showings for Liberal Democrats in Croydon and for Labour in Sutton, no clear challenger emerges to the Tories in this seat.

Liberal Democrats have come second twice, while Labour were second last time as a weak Paddick Mayoral campaign damaged LibDem support despite weak Labour national poll standings in 2008. The Conservatives also benefit from the absence of a Christian party and English Democrat candidate this time around, who between them took 6.3 per cent of the vote before.

A 40 per cent share of the vote seems to be the likely score for Tory Steve O’Connell, in line with past performances of the Conservative party.

The LibDem vote seems likely to drop back a couple of points from the 2008 poll to around 16 per cent, as they are punished for broken promises nationally but with their party very well organised in Sutton, the fall in national standing of 7 per cent since 2008 seems unlikely to be repeated here.

With candidate Abigail Lock closely associated with Sutton, where she was a councillor, there is a strong voter loyalty to LibDems in Sutton and they have seen their vote hold up well in council by-elections this year and they did especially well in the by-election in Worcester Park in February where they enjoyed a spectacular further swing from 2010.

Nevertheless, Labour seems likely to open up a healthy clear distance over the Liberal Democrats with their candidate Louisa Woodley who has been backed by the most active campaign Labour has run to date in the seat.

A lot of UKIP voters will be disillusioned electors who will see that party as the depository for protest votes, a role previously played by the LibDems before they were in government. I expect them to surprise by getting into double figures in percentage terms. Locally, the Greens, through Gordon Ross, may struggle to make as much impact as their Mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones, does across the capital.

Some of those “protest” votes may go Labour’s way on the local issue of the incinerator, the £1 billion project in Beddington Lane which has the support of local Liberals and Conservatives.

So my prediction for the Croydon and Sutton is:

Turnout: 150,000

O’Connell Conservative 60,000 40 per cent
Woodley Labour 36,000 24 per cent
Lock Liberal-Democrat 24,000 16 per cent
McKenzie UKIP 19,500 13 per cent
Ross Green 10,500 7 per cent

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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
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