The results of a national opinion poll, published yesterday, suggest strongly that UKIP might yet manage to get at least one councillor elected to Croydon Council on May 22, which could hand them the balance of power for the next four years, probably to keep the Town Hall under Conservative control.
Within Greater London, UKIP at present has only a single local councillor who was elected for that party, and they have never managed any real electoral success in Croydon.
But the results of an ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph on voting intentions for the European elections should have the cosy duopoly of Tory and Labour on Croydon Council very worried, as it suggests that with the European elections being held on the same day as the vote for who runs our Town Hall, UKIP might yet win its first council seat in Croydon.
The ICM poll sought voters’ intentions for the European elections, something in which UKIP has always out-performed.
According to the Euro poll, 30 per cent of respondents said that they would vote Labour, while the Conservatives polled a dreadful 22 per cent. UKIP were posted at 27 per cent, the kind of figure where first-past-the-post council seats start to become a winning prospect for the Eurosceptic and anti-gay marriage party.
Most voters in local elections are influenced more by national trends and by the media. The staging of the European elections on the same day as council elections on May 22 will mean that some will attend the polling station motivated by the media coverage of the European elections. For a party that has never yet managed to get a single MP elected to Westminster, UKIP gets a disproportionate amount of television and newspaper coverage, with their party leader, Nigel Farage, being afforded equal status with the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the recent televised debates.
A UKIP shock result across the country on May 22 would provide a summer harvest of media stories about “the emergence of four-party politics” and create a deal of panic on the Tory backbenches at Westminster with a General Election just a year away.
There is a strong possibility that those electors voting for “Decent Bloke Nigel” as an extension might also vote UKIP in the local elections, rather than voting for their usual party selection.
There is also the chance that interest in UKIP and Britain’s relationship with the European Union might get some people out to vote who would otherwise never bother; having gone to the trouble of attending the polling station, once in the voting booth, they just might pencil-in their crosses alongside the UKIP candidate in the local election, too.
There is no doubt that the coincidence of European elections with other elections does affect the results. Among the four London Assembly elections, it was only when one coincided with a European election in 2004 that UKIP won seats on that body.
Tony Travers, the London School of Economics’ omnipresent local government expert, has long been predicting that UKIP could gain up to 50 council seats in Greater London. May 22 will be the date to test the academic’s theory.
Following the ICM poll results of 30/27/22 for Lab/UKIP/Con, then if voters were slavishly to follow their Euro vote on to the local ballot, then the stranglehold of the two parties on Croydon politics could broken. And it’s not just the Conservatives who should fear a UKIP surge. As Travers points out, “UKIP could well do harm to Labour in the longer term as much as the Conservatives, because the support base tends to be among the less well-off.”
There are wards in Croydon where Labour has faced populist party challenges before, especially those where there are traditionally low turnouts. Some of the very best showings of UKIP in the 2012 London elections were in Croydon and especially in New Addington.
The impact of UKIP on the local elections in Croydon will be more modest the more urban they become. UKIP is a county party and the “Farage Effect” may well have more appeal in seats in Croydon’s deep south. The 2012 Croydon North parliamentary by-election offered proof of this, as the eccentric Winston McKenzie scored one of the lowest UKIP shares of the vote in this Parliament’s by-elections.
The difficulty for UKIP with strong showings in wards in the south of the borough is that these all have very large Tory majorities that are impregnable, even to Nigel’s charms. Where Labour and the Conservatives are close, and therefore each have a lower vote share, there is a possibility of UKIP coming through the middle and snatching one of the two or three council seats being contested. Marginal wards in Croydon Central will be in the sights of UKIP.
Locally, though, UKIP does have some problems. The party is split, between Croydon North and Lambeth, where McKenzie reigns supreme – and appears to have managed to select some equally eccentric characters as candidates – and Croydon Central and South, which is chaired by Peter Staveley.
McKenzie’s “party machine” has so far been incapable of returning calls or emails with details of its local election candidates on May 22. Despite some hard work in recruiting, which has seen the former Conservative party branch chairman, Rob King, join UKIP and agree to stand in Ashburton, Staveley’s candidate list does not offer a full slate. With the nomination deadline later this week, UKIP candidates in Croydon are understood to be (these are all three-seat wards, unless indicated in brackets):
Addiscombe Peter Staveley
Ashburton David Aston, Robert Ball, Robert King
Bensham Manor Dirk Muller
Broad Green Peter Kirby
Coulsdon East Alan Smith
Coulsdon West Danny Fullilove
Croham Kathleen Garner
Fairfield Dan Heaton
Fieldway (2) William Eastoe
Heathfield Crispin Williams
Kenley Paul Manton, David Hooper, Lynnda Robson
New Addington (2) Christopher Johnson, Clive Christensen
Purley Georgina Guillem, Laura Stringer
Sanderstead Claire Smith
Selhurst Jenefer Parke-Blair
Selsdon and Ballards John Bailey
Shirley Eamon Connolly, Andrew Bearchell
Thornton Heath Emmanuel Ehirim
Upper Norwood Anthony Ward
Waddon Graham Rix, Kevin Adamson
Woodside Ace Nnorom
Based on a yet-to-be-tested presumption that voters will vote locally as they do in the European elections, come May 23, right-wing UKIP could hold the balance of power at Croydon Town Hall, with two or three of the borough’s 70 councillors.
More likely, some voters will return to the older mainstream parties after having voted in the European elections, and so leave the Lab-Con duopoly in place, with the Tories returned to power.
Recent Inside Croydon election coverage:
- Tea-time leaflet leaves Easter egg over faces of Waddon Tories
- A Viscount, two Lords and a comedian back Labour’s campaign
- Council spends £200,000 on drop kerbs in flood-risk area
- Tories pick ‘Osland of the Yard’ to stand in Thornton Heath
- Newman struggles to get Labour singing from the same songsheet
- What Barwell fails to tell you and the myths of Council Tax
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- Tory ward chairman quits to stand for UKIP in Ashburton
- Snap! Croydon Tories use same leaflet graphics as council
Coming to Croydon
- Private Peaceful, Charles Cryer Theatre, Apr 23-26
- Alison, A Rock Opera, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 23-26
- Groundwork River Wandle project workshop, Apr 23
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term 12, Apr 24
- Groundwork River Wandle project workshop, Apr 24
- Stop The Incinerator Beer and Bingo fund-raiser, Apr 28
- Future of Crystal Palace debate, Apr 30
- Groundwork River Wandle project workshop, Apr 30
- David Lean Cinema: The Railway Man, May 1
- Groundwork River Wandle project workshop, May 1
- Hauntology – the architecture of Croydon, Apr 5-May 2
- David Lean Cinema: Wadja, May 8
- Coulsdon Euro election hustings, May 8
- David Lean Cinema: Blue Velvet, May 10
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- David Lean Cinema: The Invisible Woman, May 15
- Coulsdon West local election hustings, May 16
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 20 (tbc)
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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