Blue-rinsed Sutton shows real reasons for boundary changes

ANDREW PELLING’s expertise as a polling tipster saw him call correctly the outcome of voting in Croydon this month, by a margin of 484 votes out of almost 80,000 cast for Labour and the Tories. So Ladbrokes will be reading this analysis of the borough’s ward results with great interest…

The release of the individual ward data by London Elects has confirmed the judgement that we made that Labour had, for the first time, outpolled the Conservatives across the borough of Croydon in a local election. Labour had never come close to doing this before. The result was 39,665 votes for Labour and 39,181 for the Conservatives; a lead of 484. A good, if rather fine call.

Labour’s delivery of more than 2,000 votes in each of the eight wards in their north Croydon stronghold meant that Labour got their political machine cranked up and running sweetly, matching the long-established Conservative operation in the south of the borough.

Labour’s challenge now is to reallocate that campaigning resource into marginal wards like Waddon, where they will have sneaked a narrow win on May 3.

The London Elects data shows Labour winning that ward by 306 votes in the constituency member election, but that margin will have been reduced by postal votes that are not included in the figures. A very large 30 per cent of Conservatives votes across Croydon were secured by post. Only 23 per cent of Labour voters found their way to the post box with their ballot.

This differential makes it difficult to pin down exact results by ward as we cannot assume a similar ratio of postal votes by ward. Indeed one would expect that ratio to be skewed higher in each of the two party’s respective southerly and northerly bases.

After the shock of Labour running them so close in Steve O’Connell’s Assembly seat – with a 40,000 majority reduced to less than 10,000 – when the national opinion polls were so dire for them, and when the Tory vote in this part of London showed a lower turnout and a bigger fall in share than elsewhere south of the Thames, Croydon Conservatives will take some comfort that they still held on to wards like Croham, Fairfield and Ashburton.

On these results current conditions suggest a Labour win on the council no greater than 37 seats to 33 seats. The Conservatives quite clearly see Waddon as the key to not letting that happen – see their council-funded volunteer clean up of part of the ward this Saturday as a sign of that.

The Conservatives vote in Fairfield of just 1,183 votes looked weak and may have exposed a new flank to Labour campaigning. Before postal votes, Labour was just 170 votes behind in a council seat that has always been Tory.

Ironically, the Assembly seat only stayed in Conservative hands as a result of votes in the previous Liberal Democrat redoubt of Sutton. The Conservative lead over Labour there of 9,902 votes represents 108 per cent of their eventual shockingly low 9,184 majority.

Labour, after postal votes, came third in all wards except low turnout ward St Helier where they came first. This ward might turn Labour in the 2014 local council elections. This ward, a bit like Croydon’s New Addington ward, saw voters so unimpressed with politicians, that turnouts were desperately low.

The Labour vote was stronger in Sutton than in the past and much better than the 88 votes they received in a Nonsuch ward Council by-election in 2009 – even in Nonsuch the Labour vote reached 395 before postal votes.

In the new parliamentary seat that includes central Croydon and St Helier, Labour are now in second place, giving them credibility as a voting choice, but the incumbent LibDem MP Tom Brake will attempt to squeeze that vote mercilessly even if early attempts by him to campaign in the GLA election and to establish a Liberal Democrat foothold in Croydon have palpably failed. The Liberals in a disastrous last-place fifth in Waddon, the Croydon ward that they targeted.

After taking account of postal votes the LibDems will have come first only in Wandle Valley, in a close three-horse race, and just missed first place in Lord Tope‘s and former council leader Sean Brennan’s usually safe seat of Sutton Central but after postal votes this will have been a close three-way race.

Elsewhere it’s bluewash for the Tories in all Sutton wards. They will be hopeful of big gains in the 2014 local council elections, although the canny Sutton Liberals dashed similar expectations in 2010.

Nevertheless, for the coalition government’s junior partners, the runes make for dire reading. In the totality of the wards that make up the new prospective Purley and Carshalton parliamentary seat they came third. This throws a huge bucket of cold water over the LibDems’ hopes to be the clear main challenger to the Tories there.

In Coulsdon East, where they have seen a councillor elected before, the Liberals are now well behind Labour in third place. In Coulsdon West the Liberals were fourth.

Steve O’Connell: re-elected to the GLA, but beaten on votes in Croydon

The Liberal Democrats appear to have no traction in Croydon. With political credibility so low as a result of their pact with the Tories at Westminster, Tom Brake will be trying even harder to get the Boundary Commissioners to throw out the new cross-border seat. The Croydon element of that seat now makes up 51 per cent of the typical vote.

At the local Council elections in 2010, the LibDems were second placed in 10 of Croydon’s 24 wards, though the first-past-the-post electoral system left them empty-handed as far as council seats were concerned. In 2012, they came third in just five wards, fourth in 10 wards and a terrible fifth and last in nine wards. Overall they came fourth in Croydon behind the Greens, who can now claim to be Croydon’s third party.

It looks very unlikely that the new seat Croydon Central and St Helier will be winnable for Brake with Liberals fifth in Broad Green and Waddon, fourth in Fairfield and third in Croham – the four Croydon wards that go into the new cross-border seat.

Tom Brake is a different prospect to the lower-profile Assembly candidate Abigail Lock. Brake’s incumbency value will boost the Liberal vote greatly on the Sutton side of the line, thus making the new seat an easier task for the Conservatives there with a flow to Labour staunched.

The Greens best scores were in Croham, South Norwood and Addiscombe. Despite much effort in Bensham Manor over the years there was no great result there for the Greens in front of the Labour steam roller.

There was only a modest outperformance of the Labour vote in wards impacted most directly by the incinerator controversy. Modest outperformances are important though in tight elections.

After postal votes, it looks like a 1,000-vote majority for the Conservatives over Labour in the putative Croydon Central and St Helier parliamentary seat, that would be double that with a General Election higher turnout.

Croydon East is much safer for the Tories than the old Croydon Central and this is reflected in a likely 2,300 majority after postal votes. Again, this majority would be doubled in a higher national election turnout.

So despite the dreadful polls for the Tories, the five parliamentary seats in Croydon and Sutton would change from 2 Tories, 2 Liberal Democrats and 1 Labour to 4 Tories, 0 Liberal Democrats and 1 Labour.

You can see why the Conservatives brought in the boundary changes.

  • Inside Croydon: Living life on the fringes of Croydon. Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, email us at

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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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