With 15 candidates from seven parties or groups standing in Croham, with the Greens, UKIP and even the NF targeting their efforts there, this usually safe Tory territory ought to be an unlikely “battleground ward”. But as JON BIGGER explains, you ought not get too excited
You can almost feel the excitement in the air at the upcoming local elections. People eagerly scour the manifestos and engage in debate with the candidates on their doorsteps. In Croham ward the excitement is reaching fever pitch because of the amazing list of candidates standing.
Actually, as I’m sure you know it’s really rather dull.
First, I need to correct the initial paragraph: if you scour a manifesto you just end up with a blank page. It’s about as useful but a massive waste of your time. At the last election in Croham ward in 2010 three Tories – Maria Gatland, Jason Perry and Michael Neal – were returned triumphant to Croydon Council with majorities of 1,000 votes or more, massive in a constituency where 7,500 turned out.
There was a large turnout four years ago because the local elections coincided with the General Election. It seems unlikely that Croham will have changed substantially politically since, so it’s a little surprising that there are so many candidates standing this time, wasting their time and yours.
With UKIP, the LibDems, the Greens, Putting Croydon First! (note the exclamation mark) and Labour all with candidates, there should be a chance for vibrant debate and exciting alternatives to the status quo. Unfortunately it’s all a bit stale. Maybe I should have got Class War on the ballot paper and shaken few things up.
I did have a discussion with a Labour Party door-stepper the other day. I was asked if they could count on my support.
“No,” I said.
Not unreasonably, he asked why.
“Because I’m a socialist.”
His eyes lit up at hearing this swear word. “Well that doesn’t mean you can’t vote for us!” he said, clearly not discouraged.
“I’m afraid it does.”
The conversation ended amiably enough with me telling him about Class War’s plans for the General Election. I don’t think he’ll be voting for me, either.
I found the Labour leaflet the door-stepper handed me a sad reflection of the idea of a workers’ party. It shows the three candidates on the front with varying degrees of corporate clothes and goofy grins. On the back the same, tired, bland policies we’ve seen time and again from practically every party.
An end to Anti-Social Behaviour!
You’d think the fact that Labour have no real hope of success in the ward would provide them the opportunity to be bold, even radical. If they oppose austerity, they should argue how they intend to challenge not just the local Tories but the Westminster government.
You start to wonder what democracy is for. I’ve got an MA in it and I’m still not sure.
The LibDems, meanwhile, are obsessed with the proposal to build a new railway line from Brighton to London. It’s a long way down the “things to do” list behind CrossRail2 and HS2, and so BML2 could well take decades to actually happen, but it is consistently the issue that they raise. I think they’re right to be worried about it, but it all seems such a long way off.
BML2 includes the possibility of building a new railway station and major junction somewhere between Purley Oaks and South Croydon stations. With a large allotment currently between the two sites, you can guess where the station might get built. A campaign to save the allotment would be very worthwhile and might actually get somewhere.
As an issue you could imagine this gaining the LibDems some support and it makes sense for people living in the area to at least be aware of the plans. Yet I don’t get the sense that people in Croham are really excited by this issue yet, but the fact that the LibDems are going to keep banging on about it might help.
The LibDem candidates include John Jefkins, who stood in Croham four years ago, when they were the runners-up to the Tories. “Yes, it was by 1,000 votes, but you could argue it’s a two-horse race and we rather hope UKIP will harm the Tories,” Jefkins has said, apparently with more faith in UKIP’s impact than in his own party’s policies or record.
There’s one candidate in Croham who needs special mention. Tony Martin will appear on the ballot paper as an “Independent”. In fact, he’s really a National Front candidate, but he says that the NF won’t allow him to use the party name. He also says that he has chosen to stand in Croham because that’s the ward where Maria Gatland is a councillor.
Like some others on the ballot paper, Martin does not live in Croham. He’s from the most diverse ward in the borough, where his views on repatriation of immigrants might not be too popular. He is very confused over the idea of having freedom of speech thinking that it should mean that he gets air time through local media. If free speech was predicated on having designated slots in the media to say whatever we liked, the vast majority of us would be having our rights abused.
A cursory glance at his Twitter feed shows an unhealthy obsession with issues around sexuality, race and pictures of crucifixion (to be fair it was Easter). Maybe he thinks Croham is just full-to-the-brim of white, straight Christians who can’t wait to hear him exercise his freedom of speech. I hope he stays in Thornton Heath but I apologise to folk living there that might have to come into contact with him.
This is a man who, when asked whether the Holocaust had happened, replied by saying he didn’t know because he wasn’t born then. Having weighed up all the evidence, Tony Martin is undecided. When it comes to him we shouldn’t be; he deserves no votes.
There is another, genuinely independent candidate, Mark Samuel, of Putting Croydon First! Punctuation is often important, and the exclamation mark usually suggests danger. Describing himself as the “residential candidate for Croham ward”, Samuel explains, “The ‘!’ in the party title is to draw attention to Croydon and that its residents and businesses, deserve better and must come first, before party political dogma.
“I have possibly attended more council meetings than some current councillors, having stood at every single council election since 1990. In this way, I have been able to take on cases, achieving favourable outcomes for residents and businesses, including parking and planning enforcement, housing and licensing matters.”
Samuel makes an interesting election pledge: “Even if I am elected, I would not need or take two free parking permits, mobile phones and tens of thousands of pounds in ‘allowances’ for turning up to meetings, which as my track record shows, can be done at no cost to the taxpayer. I do like tea and biscuits though.”
UKIP has a single candidate on the ballot form in Croham, Kathleen Garner. If the LibDems hope that Garner may undermine the sitting Tory councillors’ votes, then it is just as possible that the Greens could undermine the LibDem votes, since Croham appears to be their chosen ward to focus their efforts, with their local party’s two co-leaders, Shasha Khan and Gordon Ross, both campaigning here together with Tracey Hague.
So, we have a choice between the Greens on the left and everyone else on the right, some on the very far right, for an election in which the likely outcome is three Tories getting to do what they’ve done for the last four years.
Despite the possibility for all these candidates to produce some exciting and innovative policies to the problems found in the ward, such as the massive inequality, the housing shortage, the spread of local supermarkets at the expense of independent pubs and the council going out of its way to do whatever the masters in Westminster tell it, we get bland candidates saying the same boring stuff we’ve all heard before.
And then they wonder why we can’t feel the excitement in the air and why we’re not scouring their manifestos.
Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:
- These are the councillors who voted to build on a public park
- Questions mount over political influence at council
- Telegraph poll suggests UKIP poised to win Town Hall seats
- What Barwell fails to tell you and the myths of Council Tax
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- The list of candidates for the May 22 local elections
Coming to Croydon
- Crystal Palace Chamber of Commerce Question Time, May 7
- David Lean Cinema: Wadjda, May 8
- Coulsdon Euro election hustings, May 8
- David Lean Cinema: Blue Velvet, May 10
- South Norwood local election hustings, May 12
- Thornton Heath local election hustings, May 14
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- David Lean Cinema: The Invisible Woman, May 15
- Broad Green local election hustings, May 15
- Coulsdon West local election hustings, May 16
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19 (confirmed)
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- 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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