Polls predict Croydon Council will be split down the middle

VOTE 2014: Opinion polls published by the Evening Standard suggest that the outcome of next Thursday’s local election in Croydon could see a split council, with the Conservatives and Labour both with 35 seats each.

Water colour by artist Lis Watkins

Water colour by artist Lis Watkins

The Tories, under the leadership florid-faced Mike Fisher, have had control of Croydon Town Hall since 2006 and won the last local elections four years ago with 37 seats to 33.

According to a YouGov poll for the Evening Boris, voting intentions of Londoners for the local elections are 40 per cent Labour, Conservatives down one point at 33 per cent and LibDems down one point at 11 per cent.

This bucks national polling trends. Yet Croydon, with its decidedly small “c” conservative leanings, tends to buck London trends also. Labour is reckoned to need at least an eight-point margin in polls to be able to take control of Croydon Council.

The unknown and unpredictable factor in all of this will be the turn-out on the day and UKIP – with European elections being staged at the same time, there’s wide expectation that the anti-EU, anti-politics party might yet have a role to play in the outcome.

The YouGov poll tallies with some research published yesterday by the London Communications Agency, which describes battleground borough Croydon as “too close to call” and predicts a hung council.

“We predict this will be the tightest race in London,” they say.

“The result in the elections will be determined by only a handful of marginal wards, mainly in the centre and east. Labour only need to take three council seats from the Conservatives to take outright control here and, based on current national polling and the possibility of UKIP taking votes from the Tories, this is certainly a possibility.”

The same researchers are predicting that the Tories will win control of Kingston from the LibDems, Merton will see Labour strengthen their control of the council, and no change in who runs other neighbouring boroughs in Sutton (LibDem, albeit with a reduced majority) Southwark and Lambeth (both Labour).

Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:

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13 Responses to Polls predict Croydon Council will be split down the middle

  1. Rod Davies says:

    A 50/50 split could be one of the worst outcomes given the nature of this election. Does the leadership of either party have the capacity to reconcile their differences to form a viable council?

    Can the parties agree what are the priorities in terms of balanced service delivery and effective management of the council administration? I suspect not, given the responses I have received from their various representatives out canvassing.

    A hint from one Labour Councillor was that the Labour party want to see a root and branch reform of the council organisation. The Conservatives I have spoken to seemed to think there are no issues on the matter.

    The various articles published by Inside Croydon and elsewhere suggest that there are matters that need resolving. The allegations that various interest groups, presenting themselves as public interest organisations, are exerting phenomenal influence over council policy to the detriment of the whole community is deeply worrying.

    What Croydon desperately needs is strong visionary leadership to take the town forward. A council locked in acrimonious squabbling isn’t going to provide that.

  2. Robin Taylor says:

    An exact 35:35 split is a statistical improbability and it’s pretty obvious the researchers are dancing on the head of a pin. I also get the impression they are not on the ground and do not have a sufficiently nuanced understanding of Croydon politics to weigh up all the local factors.

    I’ll admit that I’ve not seen the list of which wards UKIP are contesting (I’m guessing one per ward) but as a former Croydon resident I would hazard a guess that these will be the outcomes in the battleground wards:

    Fairfield: Tories hold 3 seats (just).
    Ashburton: Tories hold 3 seats (again, only just).
    Waddon: Labour gain at least 2 of the 3 seats.
    New Addington: Louisa Woodley possibly wins the 2nd seat for Labour, though not certain.

    Let’s face it – there are no other wards which are in doubt in this election. I’m not on the ground in Croydon so I cannot say for sure but on paper I would have thought there is a slight question mark over whether Labour can win Waddon easily enough to scoop all 3 seats. (Although Labour were comfortably ahead on the 2012 list vote in this ward, the Labour poll lead has fallen since then). On the other hand I’m less than 100% sure that Louisa can prevail in New Addington (a ward that is populist and likely to register a protest against any incumbent government but equally a ward which has not always been racially calm).

    In both Ashburton and Fairfield the Tories were ahead on the 2012 list vote so they will probably hold off the Labour challenge there. However, if just one of the seats was to fall into the Labour column in either ward it could tip the scales completely.

    On balance I’m guessing the outcome will be Con 34; Lab 36, but there is a lot of doubt in that estimate and any last-minute bad news story for either major party could easily make the difference.

    (Robin Taylor, former Personal Assistant to MORI’s Bob Worcester and one-time Rylands SDP candidate).

  3. davidcallam says:

    I take Rod’s points, but I draw a different conclusion. The Tories are incompetent and unfit to govern alone: Labour is tired and stale and that’s just in opposition. Between them they might just be forced to work out real compromises that would be better for the borough than either of them governing alone. Could it possibly be any worse than it/has been to date?

    • Rod Davies says:

      If neither party wins a convincing victory it will leave a leadership vacuum that cannot provide the direction and boundaries for council officers. Such a situation inherently fosters an environment where unscrupulous officers will seek to exploit the situation for their own ends. Few senior officers have a significant “buy-in” to any part of Croydon, unlike councillors, and will not have to live with the consequences of their actions. This is not something that is peculiar to Croydon.
      For the majority of council employees this is an undesirable situation as it will mean that the checks & balances that should be in place will be absent. I am aware there are those who argue that Croydon Council lacks these already because the current administration prefers to remain at arms length from the workforce.
      Given the nature of the run up to this election, going back months & months, I really cannot see how Labour could reconcile itself easily to working with the incumbent Conservatives.
      I think it will also result in a lot of very public acrimony with all sorts of allegations being made in the run up to the General Election. This alone would freeze real activity in the council.

  4. A 35-35 tied result will result in a Conservative executive controlling Croydon council on the Mayor’s casting vote.

    • Robin Taylor says:

      @ Andrew

      That’s true but it would be very precarious for the Tories.

      I still cannot get my head round why Labour did not give someone of Louisa Woodley’s calibre a safer seat to contest.

      In Rylands in 1998 she finished 208 votes behind her running mate (1,323 vs. 1,115). This deficit was a combination of “Name Order Effect” (Louisa came at the bottom of the alphabetical listing of names on the ballot sheet), the fact she was a non-incumbent, the fact she did not live locally (bear in mind here that each candidate’s address is printed on the ballot sheet) and the fact that whether we like it or not there is still a certain amount of prejudiced voting going on.

      All four of these factors are likely to affect Louisa’s chances in New Addington. In particular, the ‘non-local’ factor is likely to be magnified (bearing in mind that Louisa has a Thornton Heath address). I have heard that this is something the Tories are trying to make capital out of, despite the fact that they are quite adept at standing their own candidates in areas where they do not live when it suits them to do so.

      From a Labour point of view let’s just hope she prevails, because in some circumstances a split result in that ward could cost Labour control of the local authority.

    • Nick Davies says:

      I thought the usual convention is that a casting vote should wherever possible maintain the status quo. You won’t get a Conservative executive but you will get a council which can’t change anything unless both sides agree.

    • davidjl2014 says:

      Well you would know, you were a Conservative Councillor on the Croydon Council for years! And now???

  5. davidcallam says:

    I think the Labour Party has treated Louisa Woodley disgracefully. Was she seen as a possible leadership contender? Is that why obstacles to re-election have been strewn in her path?

    • “Disgracefully”? What obstacles, beyond the need to win the support of the members of the ward in which she was to stand?

      The candidate selection process run by Labour last summer was far from perfect, but just as the Tories did earlier this year, not all sitting councillors were re-selected. Louisa Woodley’s de-selection in Thornton Heath happened early enough in the local politics musical chairs that she still had an opportunity to apply for selection in another “winnable” ward. The outcome on Thursday will be interesting.

  6. markrlsamuel says:

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    I know that labour and conservative are just as devious as each other with the regard to the prospect of a 35 / 35 result.

    Andrew Pelling has not explained how the casting vote of any mayor would work, as both parties are currently expecting to put forward their respective candidates.

    As I understand it, the current mayor ceases to be after the municipal year, any way.

    A much better outcome would be a 33 / 33 stale, same old, duopoly with a joint mayoralty / cabinet of the other 4. This could operate the council with savings all round and more political accountability.

    I can dream though?

    Come on Croydon, I know you can achieve this!

  7. The outgoing Mayor always chairs that part of the first meeting of the new municipal year that elects the new Mayor and can exercise a casting vote, if necessary.

  8. markrlsamuel says:

    How undemocratic is that, especially if the “outgoing Mayor” is not relected as a councillor?

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