Tonight, a little more than 100 individuals will select the person who will be the MP for Croydon South, possibly for the next 20 years or more. Among them, exercising his right as a Sanderstead resident, will be Croydon Central’s MP. Our friendly Tory insider says that this may carry some risks
In Charlotte Vere, Suella Fernandes and Lucy Frazer, tonight we have a great choice of real high-fliers to offer up to the Croydon South electorate and who, if elected, are so impressive that they will stand a good chance of getting swiftly promoted into ministerial office within the parliamentary party.
Whoever is selected tonight, though, will face the unusual proposition of having to win the support of the Conservative MP for the neighbouring constituency, as Gavin Barwell has declared that he intends to attend the meeting and, as a Sanderstead resident in Croydon South, exercise his right to vote on who will stand for the party in this constituency.
Some of us “ordinary” members are a bit worried that Barwell has been out in social media, tweeting about his participation in the selection. Some think it is bad form having the next-door MP involving himself so publicly in our selection. What if we all vote for someone that Barwell dislikes? What if there is some history between him and one of the short-listed candidates?
It all runs the risk that the winning candidate could even think that they were not supported by their soon-to-be parliamentary colleague.
I can understand Barwell being enticed into commenting on the social media because of the ribbing that our four fabulous candidates received because none of them has a Croydon connection (although Chris Philp does have links to Orpington).
In any case, our local party’s criticism of Labour selections has been about local council candidates – the clue is in the title – local council candidates.
Labour’s selection of their council candidates seems to have been a comedy of errors, especially with one standing councillor who lives in Thornton Heath, two bus rides from New Addington where she now intends to stand, being seen running desperately from pillar to post to get a nomination once she was deselected in her home ward.
Tonight, though, we are not selecting a local worthy but a prospective national politician. The local connection is not so important in a safe parliamentary seat. An obsession with locality has been the problem in the past with our party’s selections of Croydon parliamentarians. Too many have been local government worthies who have just not made the grade up at Westminster.
Our parliamentary selection process is about merit rather than who you can get to join the party or coerce into attending the hustings to back your candidate.
There has been a lot of nonsense about how the leader of Croydon Council, Mike Fisher, failed to get through to the final round. From what I have been told, the interview panel that met on Saturday just felt that bringing a good candidate from outside the current team in Croydon would add to the party’s overall strength locally. This is not necessarily a criticism of Fisher’s skills. He may have been unwise to apply but we are full square behind him, the man who has brought the council back from the financial precipice.
There have been just three days between the short-listing and the selection of our candidate. A bit different from the extended process Labour has that provides the extended time to get people corralled to attend small ward caucuses to nominate a candidate, and to a much-delayed general meeting of candidates where whipping in dedicated party stalwarts counts for far more than the performance on the night. The three-day gap we have does not provide the time for Conservative candidates to try to just stuff the meeting with supporters.
And certainly there is a huge amount of merit in the candidates on offer. “Difficult choices,” a friend on the selection panel said. “They were all so very good.”
My preference at this stage is for Charlotte Vere – who by this morning led Inside Croydon’s online poll with 37 per cent – and I think that she will win my fellow members’ hearts tonight.
She is a candidate with gumption, appearing in front of the membership on her own merits, not like in the Labour party where women get selected only when there are all-women shortlists. When taking a leading role in the No2AV referendum campaign last year, Vere impressed many in Croydon, and that will not be forgotten tonight.
The other female candidates are also very special. Both are top class advocates – they are both barristers.
The very approachable Lucy Frazer has become a Queen’s Counsel at an early stage in her glittering career as a Gray’s Inn insolvency lawyer which has included handling high-profile cases such as Lehman Bros and the Irish and Icelandic financial failures. One of just 14 female QCs appointed this year, Frazer, a Cambridge contemporary of Barwell, has the background to break down the male domination in the Commons.
Planning barrister Suella Fernandes is also a commanding speaker. Fernandes is so persuasive that she was described by Planning Magazine as one of the top-rated junior barristers last year.
Not only would Fernandes appeal to Croydon’s black and minority ethnic communities but she would also underline how Conservatives reach out to promote the best in people regardless of their background. Fernandes is the chair of governors of the Michaela free school that will open in Wembley, her home turf, in the next school year under the inspirational leadership of Katharine Birbalsingh, who was such a wow at the Conservative party conference in 2010 when she revealed the scandal that is inner-city education. Fernandes is also a co-founder of the Africa Justice Foundation, a charity supporting legal education and training in Africa.
Philp is the only Oxford graduate left in the mix – Vere is UCL and Kellogg, Fernandes Cambridge and the Sorbonne, Frazer was at Cambridge.
This morning Philp was running second in Inside Croydon’s poll, at 33 per cent. He is a businessman, so he does have a practical experience in life – unlike so many of our politicians these days. His “Work for the Dole” Taxpayers’ Alliance leaflet was influential on government policy with its call for a programme of mandatory participation in physical or community work in return for the continued payment of benefits. I see far too many lazy, going to seed, over 50 men, made redundant in the recent downturn, skulking around the local coffee bars and who seem to think that a bit of physical, lower paid, hard work is beneath them. Why should my taxes pay for their cappuccinos through their benefits ?
But whatever the merits of Philp’s harsh but fair approach to workfare, now is the chance for us as Conservatives to choose the person who will be Croydon’s first woman MP. Another proud first for Croydon Conservatives is in prospect.
- 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
- 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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