JONNY ROSE believes that his alternative vision for regeneration, the Silicon Valley of South London, ought be to be front and centre of all the Croydon North by-election candidates’ campaigns
It’s election season in Croydon. Rarely seen politicos are coming out of the woodwork to capture the pliant hearts and minds of the local electorate.
In a sea of uniformly opportunistic door-stepping and indistinguishable policy promises, I believe that it is still not too late for one of them to articulate a programme for change that could differentiate themselves from the competition.
That vision should – of course – be Croydon Tech City.
Whatever political hue you are, there is something for everyone here.
If I were the Green party, I would look to the cycling culture that goes hand-in-handlebar with tech ecosystems. One cannot walk through east London’s Tech City (the name given to a cluster of 400 tech firms near the Old Street roundabout) without failing to see the curious sight of grown men in purple trousers rushing to meetings on fixies. This phenomenon was laudibly galvanised by the Tech City Bikers charity event last month which saw more than 40 developers, tech founders and VCs cycle to Paris and raising more than £21,000.
If I were a Conservative, I would look at how tech start-ups are at the forefront of rejuvenating national economies, including our own. EC1 (Old Street, Clerkenwell and Farringdon) has experienced a 40 per cent year on year rise in company incorporations and is responsible for 76 per cent of all growth across central London in the past year.
David Cameron was quick to jump on to the successes of east London’s tech cluster in 2010 – if I was an eager young Turk looking for a Prime Ministerial pat on the head I’d be quick to point out how Croydon is doing it too.
If I were Labour, I’d seek to capitalise on how tech ecosystems and the volunteer movement could help those that the monied classes have forgotten. Whether it’s creating working computer labs for deprived children for free or teaching coding to nine to 11-year-olds and the unemployed. The startup ethos – one that, in many ways, thrives on collaboration and communal efforts rather than hierarchy and individualism – should be an attractive sell to those on the Left.
If I was in UKIP, I would be incandescent with parochial rage at how quickly tech cities are forming across Europe – yet another thing that the dreaded European Project is doing to undermine the UK’s economic sovereignty. What better way to regain national mojo and reverse the talent drain to Berlin and Barcelona than to foster a very British start-up culture in Croydon and add to the rest of the capital’s own efforts.
And, if I were, a Liberal Democrat …well…I’d just bow out of the race gracefully right now while one’s dignity is still intact.
The point is that there is something for everyone here. Croydon Tech City is “inclusive” (read: nebulous) enough to have a finger in each ideological pie; and – if spun right – could inspire everyone from the estate-dwelling NEET with no apparent options to the retiree who wants to do more on their computer than read BBC websites.
As Croydon prepares for a future in which the opportunities afforded by technical entrepreneurship, digital innovation and social media networking will almost certainly come to play an integral part in the borough’s fortunes – Croydon Tech City is a vision that should be on the agenda of every candidate in this by-election.
Whoever wins will have an unenviable struggle in turning around some of the borough’s less salubrious areas. However, it is my conviction that Croydon Tech City can go some way to help the new MP for Croydon North with that task.
- Jonny Rose will be holding a second Croydon Tech City meeting at Matthews Yard on Thursday November 22 at 7.30pm
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
- Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Westfield swoops in early with planning application for Croydon (insidecroydon.com)
- Tech City: two years in, how is east London’s technology hub faring? (guardian.co.uk)
- Tributes paid to former energy minister Malcolm Wicks who has died aged 65 (dailymail.co.uk)