Yesterday, we posted an online poll for our loyal reader to vote for their preferred candidate to become the local Conservatives’ candidate for Croydon South at the next parliamentary election.
Whoever is chosen next week will be replacing Tricky Dicky Ottaway, the man who got caught with his fingers in the parliamentary expenses cookie jar, an MP for a London constituency who somehow managed to claim for a second home, who employed his wife at public expense, and who yet managed to survive a re-selection interrogation and was then re-elected in 2010. And all with an improved majority.
If ever there was living and breathing proof that voting doesn’t change anything…
“Whatever party they claim to represent in the day, at night they show their true colours and all go to the same party,” was the view of the comedian and actor Russell Brand last night as he prepared to join the Million Mask March on Westminster Bridge, a protest together with tens of thousands of others in cities around the world, with people wearing white Fawkes masks on Bonfire Night.
As if to underline the still-growing distrust of the political classes, this morning, the Torygraph published the results of its enquiries into the activities of Mark Pritchard, the Conservative MP for The Wrekin, who was caught telling an undercover reporter that he could use his “network” to set up meetings with politicians in countries where he had parliamentary connections, all for £3,000 per month.
The Torygraph, of course, is the same newspaper which ran the MPs’ expenses investigation in 2009 which caught Croydon South’s Ottaway, among many others.
Pritchard, who was recorded on film and audio tape, says he is considering legal action against the newspaper.
His case seems very similar to that of another Tory, Patrick Mercer, who was caught in a sting by the BBC’s Panorama pimping his services as an MP for the sake of the disgraced regime in Fiji, also for a nice juicy fee. Mercer is still working as an MP, although he has had the whip withdrawn by the Conservative party.
It is not only at national level that public office is being abused with such self-serving acts.
Here in Croydon, we have highlighted the council cabinet member and his wife, Dudley and Margaret Mead, who receive almost £90,000 a year in council “allowances”, and who sit on the governing bodies of a number of arts organisations – including the Fairfield Halls – who continue to receive more than £1 million a year in grants from Croydon Council, at a time when it has cut funding to most other arts bodies in the borough.
Or there’s the case of Clare Hilley, the Waddon councillor who wrote from her Town Hall email account asking for a job from a company in the building industry and boasting of her planning expertise. This at a time when Hilley was a member of the council’s planning and strategic planning committees.
Hilley subsequently got a new job with another company, the HardHat building PR agency whose clients include Barratt Homes, Redrow and Asda. The local Conservative party has refused to state whether it has taken any disciplinary action against the councillor, though Hilley was quietly removed from the planning committees following our reports.
As well as self-serving, Hilley – the former reality TV star whose finest moment was getting so drunk that she puked down her front – also wallows in self-pity. She has described Inside Croydon’s reports as “vile” and “smears”. Maybe she is discomforted in having her conduct subject to scrutiny. As we maintained when she resorted to expensive City libel lawyers Carter Ruck to try to gag Inside Croydon, unsuccessfully, our reports are based in fact and pose legitimate questions about someone in public office. We leave our loyal reader to decide who has behaved in a “vile” manner.
But is it any wonder that so many have lost all trust in politicians, and politics?
Even Jeremy Paxman, the veteran Newsnight political inquisitor, has joined the growing band of doubters. After his now celebrated interview with Brand last month – one of the best things on YouTube – Paxman has written a piece for this week’s Radio Times.
Do you recognise any of these sentiments?
“Russell Brand has never voted, because he finds the process irrelevant. I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo-chamber. But it is all we have.”
We “ignore the democratic process at our peril”, Paxman writes, after admitting that he opted not to vote at one recent election because the choices were so “unappetising”.
And according to Paxman, the options before us are not looking much better: “At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who’ve given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn’t raise student fees, and then did so – the most blatant lie in recent political history.
“It won’t be a bombshell if very large numbers of the electorate simply don’t bother to vote. People are sick of the tawdry pretences.”
Consider this: whoever is chosen by the local Conservative party to stand in Croydon South at the next parliamentary election will inherit a seat with a 15,000-vote majority. Like Ottaway, whoever is selected for the Tories can look forward to collecting parliamentary salary, expenses and other perks, as well as any power that comes their way, effectively unchallenged, and for as long as they like.
When Ottaway was re-elected in 2010, 28,684 people actively voted for him. But another 50,000 residents in Croydon South either voted for someone else, or did not vote at all. In fact, nearly as many people in Croydon South in 2010 decided not to vote as voted for arch-expenses claimer Ottaway.
Maybe, for once, Russell Brand has a point.
Coming to Croydon
- Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow: Nov 5-8
- Poppy Cafe, Coulsdon, re-opening: Nov 9
- The Kings of Summer: Nov 11
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Summer in February: Nov 18
- Much Ado About Nothing: Nov 25
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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