Sutton and Cheam Conservatives have chosen a prospective parliamentary candidate with a strong Croydon connection – and it’s not Steve “Three Jobs” O’Connell.
Paul Scully is to be the Conservative candidate to challenge Liberal Democrat MP, Paul Burstow, at the next Westminster election.
While the Daily Mail says no one of quality wants to be a Tory candidate these days, this was disproved by the Sutton and Cheam shortlist, where Scully beat competition from candidates who had fought parliamentary elections before, Paul Bristow and Maria Caulfield.
The name of Kenley councillor Steve O’Connell, the London Assembly member for Sutton and Croydon and the Sutton Conservatives’ “parliamentary spokesman”, was not on the shortlist.
Scully was the Conservatives’ leader on Sutton Council but lost his council seat in the Tories’ meltdown in the borough in 2010. At the general election due in 2015, Scully will have to reverse the trend set by two really dreadful council by-elections in 2012 in a parliamentary seat which has seen coalition supporters coalescing around the LibDems rather than the Tories. The Conservative percentage share of the vote in Stonecot fell by an astounding 37 per cent last month.
“I will set out a positive vision for Sutton and Cheam residents, one that only a Conservative government can deliver, not a coalition and not a return to Labour,” Scully told Inside Croydon.
“In me, local residents can have both a hard-working local MP and a Conservative government. We need to protect services in St Helier, ensure that there are enough school places in excellent schools for our local children and that our High Streets and local businesses get through this downturn and thrive.”
Scully also emphasises his local relevance when he says, “I have lived the whole of my adult life in Sutton, raising my family here. My children, both born in St Helier Hospital, attended Sutton schools.
“I shop in the same shops and have my wheelie bins emptied by the same rubbish trucks as the residents across the constituency, and if elected I will work tirelessly for residents to ensure that Sutton and Cheam has a strong voice.”
For all of that, as Scully lives in Carshalton, outside Sutton and Cheam, the LibDems are unlikely to be dissuaded from putting out leaflets with maps showing Burstow living in the constituency and Scully living “in the rest of the world”.
Scully, who used to work as a parliamentary aide for former Croydon Central MP Andrew Pelling, recently set up a public affairs agency, Nudge Factory, whose first big job is trying to sell Westfield’s £1 billion case to redevelop the Whitgift Centre.
Nudge Factory’s projects so far have included Westfield’s “Town Hall” phone-in with Nick Ferrari, and the launch of a five-point Westfield plan to rescue Croydon from its troubles in areas like housing and employment. They may seem to nudge a little too far as far as “corporate social responsibility” is concerned, where many still believe that policies such as public housing ought to be directed by publicly elected politicians rather than profit-driven developers and their PR spinners.
With Westfield’s appalling abandonment of Bradford town centre, Scully may find selling his parliamentary candidature an easier job than painting Westfield as an entirely benign future for Croydon.
Scully’s business partner is Ahzaz Chowdhury, who is active in Croydon’s young Conservatives organisation.
Scully is an archetypal local candidate, but like Burstow he faces a tricky political problem in pledging “to fight tooth and nail” to preserve the maternity and A&E services in the hospital in which his former party leader, Sir John Major, as well as his own children were born, when it is his own ConDem government which is planning their closure.
Having a local candidate is a departure for Sutton Conservatives, who have previously chosen outsiders who have been at a disadvantage to Burstow, who was first a borough councillor and whose wife Mary Burstow even took a seat for the LibDems in true blue Cheam in 2010.
The gloriously entertaining Lady Olga Maitland, who lost the Sutton and Cheam seat to Burstow in 1997, originally kept a flat in Sutton (which is more than Lord Bletchingley has ever done in his Croydon South constituency), but she did not live locally.
Another Tory candidate, Richard Willis, came from Reading and was shunned by some local party members for his homosexuality. A truly county type and former England schools’ hockey captain, Phillipa Stroud, who did move into the constituency, was caught out by adverse publicity just before polling day that she was involved in prayers supposedly to cure homosexuality, something she was only able to deny after the votes were counted.
In comparison, Scully is a good choice for Sutton’s Tories.
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- Hospital plans ‘lack leadership’ (bbc.co.uk)