CAMPAIGN CATCH-UP: With candidates selected and canvassing now under way, how is the Croydon North election shaping up?
The Respect party’s Croydon North campaign is going well… in America.
Respect this week claimed that Jesse Jackson, the renowned United States civil rights campaigner and a previous contender for the Democrats’ Presidential nomination, has endorsed their Croydon North candidate, Lee Jasper.
Jackson has long known Jasper.
But it may not be an altogether successful endorsement. The last parliamentary candidate in a Croydon election to claim a link with Jesse Jackson in his campaign literature secured just 6.5 per cent of the vote. That may prove to be a minimum target for Jasper, since it requires 5 per cent of the vote to get the £500 deposit back.
The deposit is meant to discourage joke candidates but in Croydon North’s case the deposit is proving to be little disincentive to fringe candidates.
Respect’s campaign needs to get going, as back on this side of the pond there has not been much sign of support, or indeed political activity on the streets of Croydon North for the dapper Jasper.
George Galloway MP, Jasper’s campaign manager, protests that the election is “us against the Blairite. New Labour versus real Labour”. The Blairite reference is a suggestion from Respect that Labour’s candidate Steve Reed’s work as leader of Lambeth’s “co-operative council” has been a cover for evicting council tenants and sacking council staff.
Based on its record, as outlined here, Reed’s opponents say that there is little to distinguish between Labour-controlled Lambeth and Conservative-run Croydon Council.
In Croydon North, Reed’s campaign managers express greater concern about the Conservatives than Respect. Labour has described the Tory candidate Andrew Stranack, a local charity worker, as “strong”.
They eye the Conservative campaign manager, Gavin Barwell MP, cautiously. They know that Barwell is a professional political campaigner who has spent the vast majority of his career as a election organiser either at Conservative Central Office or in the pay of Lord Cashcroft.
“The way they are handling their campaign suggests it is almost a test run for Barwell’s own campaign in 2015,” one local political observer told Inside Croydon, “whether he opts to stand and seek re-election in Croydon Central, or if he makes the rabbit run to Croydon South, from the literature they’ve put out already, you can see a soft focus Tory, distancing themselves from the present government and its mantra of austerity cuts.
“On the front of Stranack’s first campaign leaflet the main picture was not of the candidate, but had a picture of Barwell with the late Malcolm Wicks, and no sign of Tory blue – you could be forgiven for thinking Barwell was standing for Labour.”
The Respect party’s launch rally in Croydon does not take place until Saturday evening at 7pm at Crystals at Selhurst Park. The poster advertising the rally talks of “introducing” Jasper, on a date that could well be less than three weeks before election day.
Respect is meanwhile picking a fight with the Croydon Sadvertiser, with Jasper challenging the paper to state how many black journalists it has on its ever-diminishing staff, after the Dorking-based newspaper decided to begin its coverage of his campaign as being racially divisive.
It seems that Respect is unaware that the Sadvertiser, owned by Northcliffe Media, from the Daily Mail stable, is these days firmly wedded to focusing on the leafy south of the borough, targeting its much-diminished distribution and its advertising to the middle-class, much more white communities of Purley, Kenley and Coulsdon, disconnecting from north Croydon politics. That lack of roots and foundations in north Croydon and a lack of local knowledge appears to have affected Respect’s campaign, too.
Another stirring podcast has been posted for the Croydon North Respect campaign. But only one of the people featured on the video expresses any clear connection with Croydon. Respect’s far from local activity seems so far to be based mainly in the ether of social media or meetings far from Croydon, with street canvassing for Respect only starting recently.
By contrast, in a very obvious boots on the ground operation, Labour has established an extra new high visibility office on the Thornton Heath pond roundabout for all to see as they drive past, north, south, east and west.
Labour seems to be leaving nothing to chance with Labour insiders saying that they will not repeat the mistake from Bradford where Galloway won and Labour left whole wards uncanvassed.
The Labour campaign was further boosted on Sunday, the day after Reed clinched the Labour nomination by a single vote, when his nearest rival Valerie Shawcross joined the first canvass post-selection. Shawcross sported a beaming smile and polite kisses exchanged between the pair.
Current national opinion polls suggest that the Croydon North result should be as follows (assuming a significant fall in turnout because of the by-election’s timing late in the year, and the assumption of a large Labour majority):
Funny things can happen in parliamentary by-elections, though, where smaller parties can concentrate their limited resources. A comparatively lower turnout among traditional Labour voters expecting an easy win remains a potential difficulty for Reed’s team.
The declared candidates so far are:
- Monster Raving Loony John Cartwright
- National Front Richard Edmonds
- Respect Lee Jasper
- Green Shasha Khan
- UKIP Winston McKenzie
- Liberal Democrat Marisha Ray
- Labour Steve Reed
- Young People’s Party Robin Smith
- Communist Ben Stevenson
- Conservative Andrew Stranack
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- Marisha Ray selected for Lib Dems in Croydon North (libdemvoice.org)
- Reed Refuses to Run Properly for Fear of Losing (order-order.com)