Croydon South Conservatives tonight made an excellent case for all-women short-lists when they somehow managed to ignore three strong female candidates and instead picked fickle Chris Philp, noted as a generous financial donor to the Tories, to be the person who stands for their party at the next parliamentary election.
When Inside Croydon ran an open poll of all the candidates on the Conservatives long-list for Croydon South last week, Philp was notable as managing to attract just a solitary vote.
Yep, just the one.
There’s little chance that anyone will manage to stop Philp duly taking over as Croydon South’s MP at the next parliamentary election, however, since it is one of the safest Tory seats in London.
But Croydon South’s Conservative members – including Sanderstead resident and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell – have managed to choose themselves a loser.
The 37-year-old former grammar schoolboy Philp has stood for election before, and lost. Twice.
He failed to unseat veteran Labour politician and former actress Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn in the 2010 general election, and as recently as 10 days ago he was telling the people of Tonbridge that he wanted nothing more than the chance to represent them in parliament. He lost there, too.
Clearly, Philp’s commitment to Croydon goes as far as wanting a 15,000-vote majority safe seat that is likely to see him a fixture at Westminster for as long as he likes.
In 2010, a notable part of his campaign was to keep the local police stations from being closed. Philp, when he gets to know his new constituency, will discover that all the police stations in Croydon South have either been closed or face closure.
Tonight’s meeting at Coulsdon Baptist Church saw the four short-listed candidates – Philp, Charlotte Vere, Lucy Frazer and Suella Fernandes – address an audience of more than 100 local party members, with the voting starting not much before 10pm.
Vere was the surprising casualty of the first-round of voting. Philp attracted enough votes to be declared the winner after the second cycle of voting.
According to our online poll ahead of the meeting, tonight’s vote was “too close to call”, as Walter Cronxite might say, with barely one percentage point between leading candidates Vere and Philp, who had between them accrued the support of two-thirds of all our voters.
But our loyal readers were voting for their choice of candidate, rather than trying to mind-read the thoughts of the Croydon South Tory party.
Philp’s selection tonight is probably just as much of a shock to many observers of local politics as was the outcome of Saturday’s pre-selection meeting, when the eight-strong panel, which was made up of six local councillors, managed to dump on their Town Hall group leader, Mike Fisher, and frustrate his political ambitions.
And for all the brave faces being put on their choice they were given tonight, there were grumblings among some local Conservative party members who felt that the selection panel had chosen the “wrong four” – of the quartet, only Frazer did not bring with her the stigma of having been an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate elsewhere, and who had then abandoned the local party in order to alight the train at Coulsdon Town in search of a job-for-life safe seat.
There may be some forehead slapping going on a Tory Central Office tomorrow morning, though, as having created a situation with a 75 per cent all-woman short-list, the earnest members in Croydon spurned the opportunity to help address the dreadful gender imbalance within the parliamentary Conservative party. Welcome to 1963.
Philp was brought up in Orpington, the son of a teacher and an archaeologist. After St Olave’s Grammar, he went to Oxford University where he was awarded a first-class physics degree and completed a masters in quantum mechanics.
He has set-up, and sold, two successful businesses, and now runs an asset management firm specialising in providing funding for the construction sector in Serbia and the rest of eastern Europe. That background might come in handy if the Hammersefield scheme liked so much by his new bestie mate Barwell comes a financial cropper in the next couple of years.
Philp has used much money he has made from business to support the Conservative party; he is a party treasurer. Over the past decade, he has been chairman of the Bow Group think tank, advised Andrew Lansley when he was shadow health spokesman (that worked well then), and become a councillor in somewhere called Camden, which we understand is a long way north of the river.
Earlier this year, Philp’s study Work for the Dole: A proposal to fix welfare dependency was published by The Taxpayers Alliance, calling for mandatory participation in community work in return for the continued payment of benefits. So Philp’s neo-con credentials are well-established.
Other candidates had been making more of an effort to engage party members in Croydon, with Fernandes attending ward events, such as an annual dinner, right up to 24 hours before the selection ballot. Let’s hope that in consolation she at least enjoyed the food, if not the company.
Philp inherits a healthy 15,000-vote majority when they get to stand at the general election in 2015, taking over from Tricky Dicky Ottaway.
The seat has been true-blue Conservative since its creation in 1974; Ottaway has held it since 1992, after being parachuted in and solemnly promising to set up home in the constituency, which he never did. If Philp does so now, as has been suggested he would be required to do so, he will be notable as the only Croydon MP to actually live within their own constituency.
- Who from Croydon South’s fab four will get Barwell’s backing?
- Top candidates provide Croydon with chance of fresh start
- Red faces all-round as Croydon South Tories dump on Fisher
Coming to Croydon
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Summer in February: Nov 18
- Library’s Dr Who day: Nov 23
- 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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