Croydon’s Tory leadership, Mike Fisher and Gavin “I’m just a bag man” Barwell, have come in for a withering attack – from their own political party’s high command.
Iain Dale, the noted Conservative blogger, used his weekly diary on ConservativeHome.com, the website owned by none other than Lord Cashcroft, to slaughter Croydon Tories for “sitting on their fat arses” instead of getting out campaigning in support of their colleagues in Surrey ahead of last week’s less-than-successful county council elections.
Dale was fiercely critical of Croydon Conservatives for staging a cosy manifesto get-together fronted by Fisher, the rarely sighted leader of the Tory group at Croydon Town Hall, and Croydon Central MP Barwell.
Dale felt that the timing of the Croydon Conservatives’ event, so close to the county elections, was extremely poor judgement.
But Inside Croydon has also been contacted by Conservative figures in Sutton who are angry at their Croydon party colleagues for their equally slap-dash approach over the issue of the Beddington Lane waste incinerator.
With speculation mounting over whether Boris Johnson will seize the opportunity of Croydon South’s ultra-safe seat becoming available with the retirement at the 2015 General Election of Lord Bletchingley, the local Conservative federation – short on members and funding – is likely to come under increasingly close scrutiny.
In his online column, Dale wrote in mock surprise: “What’s that I hear you saying? They weren’t campaigning at all? They were sitting on their fat arses holding a one day conference at a hotel five miles from the Surrey border? Surely not…
“May I respectfully suggest that this conference, vital, though I am sure it is, might have been better timed if it had taken place a few weeks later? One thing is for sure, it would never have happened when Sir Anthony Garner was running the party organisation. You may remember that period. It was when the Conservative Party used to win elections.”
Croydon Conservatives have equally acid critics much closer to home, too.
Their manifesto conference may have taken their eye off the ball on the incinerator issue, with LibDem-controlled Sutton Council holding its crucial planning meeting on the £1 billion incinerator scheme at around the same time.
In 2010, the Tories in Croydon issued a leaflet full of untruths, and making a promise to oppose the incinerator when seeking residents’ votes, but then supported the scheme once returned to power.
The Tories in Sutton oppose the incinerator, and their votes last month managed to block permission being given for the Viridor scheme to progress (for now, at least).
Not a single Conservative councillor from Croydon bothered attending the meeting, to speak in support of the scheme. Sutton Tories say that ahead of the meeting, no one from Croydon’s leading Conservatives had contacted them to brief or lobby on the incinerator issue, either.
But they did call their Sutton colleagues the day after the surprise decision at the meeting. “They were pretty pee’d off,” according to our source.
“But what do they expect if they can’t be bothered to do the work?”
If people within their own party are saying such things of Mike Fisher’s lazy Croydon Conservatives, things must be bad.
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- £1bn incinerator “replay” meeting hurriedly set-up for May 15 (insidecroydon.com)
I do love it when complacent politicians fall out among themselves. UKIP must be chuckling quietly, as must everyone else who has witnessed the incompetent performance of the Tories in Croydon.
If the party is not to lose seats in borough elections next year, I suggest Mr Dale and his chums at Central Office will have to do more than slap Fisher and company mildly on the wrist.
I imagine Peter Staveley and his UKIP colleagues are already making plans to target vulnerable wards – particularly in the south of the borough – where their brand of anti-EU, anti-immigration policies will find a ready audience.
Maybe a split vote would allow more forward-looking parties to succeed too. The prospect should certainly galvanise the Tories, unless they’ve already resigned themselves to losing control of the council once again. I wonder what wild promises they’ll make in an attempt to hang on to power – and I wonder how naive we’ll be in believing them.
I hope we end up with a hung council: the idea of two or more parties having to work together would bring a breath of fresh air to the debating chamber and to Bernard Weatherill House too.