Labour looking vulnerable to Barwell’s Addiscombe push

VOTE 2014: In our latest profile of the battleground wards for the May 22 Town Hall elections, WALTER CRONXITE sifts through the signs of what could be one of the closest of contests – Addiscombe

Whatever the council election results in other marginal wards on Thursday, Conservative sources are ever more confident that they will turn the tables on Labour in Addiscombe.

Under threat? Labour's three Addiscombe councillors, from left, Mark Watson, Patricia Hay-Justice and Sean Fitzsimons

Under threat? Labour’s three Addiscombe councillors, from left, Mark Watson, Patricia Hay-Justice and Sean Fitzsimons

Addiscombe is a key swing ward in Croydon. The results in Addiscombe tend to point to the results in the council overall. On the occasions when Addiscombe has been held against the borough trend, it has tended to have been done only with a very small margin (see our table below).

While securing all three Addiscombe seats might beyond the Tories in the central Croydon ward this time round, the Conservatives are hopeful that they can pick off at least one incumbent councillor.

In 2010, the last time Town Hall elections were staged, Addiscombe saw three seats gained by Labour from the Conservatives, but only just: Mark Watson, Sean Fitzsimons and Patricia Hay-Justice were elected, polling 2,683, 2,839 and 2,497 votes respectively. In Hay-Justice’s case, that was just 52 votes more than her nearest Conservative challenger.

With the pollsters suggesting a hung council, leaving Croydon still in the control of the Conservatives on the outgoing Mayor’s casting vote, any gains from Labour could prove crucial in determining who runs the Town Hall for the next four years.

Even though the 2010 General Election represented the worst share of the national vote for Labour since 1918, the Labour Party made gains at a local level as voters who normally absent themselves from low-key Town Hall elections turned out in the higher profile parliamentary election. This higher than normal turnout helped Labour gain council seats across London that would normally be beyond them in local elections.

Croydon was no exception to this trend and Addiscombe was one of these wards that Labour gained on the back of the higher turnout.

This Thursday’s election is likely to see the turn-out drop back to the usual levels for local votes, making it a real challenge for Labour to hold Addiscombe.

Being part of the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency, Addiscombe is likely to be an election battleground for some time beyond Thursday, being seen as key by Gavin Barwell in his efforts to ensure that he is re-elected as MP next year. It was in Addiscombe that Barwell controversially first abused the House of Commons portcullis emblem on letters  seeking to recruit candidates for his local Conservative party.

Addiscombe table 2

If Barwell can secure the election of a councillor in Addiscombe, he will buttress his campaign there, allowing him to concentrate resources in safer Conservative wards during the General Election campaign. His commitment to a Tory victory in Addiscombe was underlined in his persuading a large number of fellow Tory MPs to act as deliverers of leaflets in the ward. Not that they have been overworked at Westminster of later, as the Tory-led coalition has run out of legislation and has given MPs lengthy holiday periods.

It has not all been smooth progress, however. Barwell’s involvement in the local election campaign saw the Addiscombe ward chairman and busy activist Robert King, who had stood in the ward for the Tories in 2010, quit the Conservatives and join UKIP.

The Conservatives’ three candidates in Addiscombe has three entirely new faces from the previous election. One recruit is David Harmes, the chairman of a local residents’ association called CHASE. The Tories will be hoping that Harmes’ local connections will assist them in getting him across the line.

Conservatives also feel that while changing demographics may not assist them in Croydon, in Addiscombe it is in their favour that the area is populated by more professional classes paying high rents from their higher than average salaries earned at the end of a commute from the nearby East Croydon station.

Addiscombe has a habit of giving fairly decent votes to progressive parties other than Labour – more than 30 per cent to the Greens and Liberal Democrats in 2006 and more than 25 per cent again in 2010. This is a brake on Labour’s hopes, but this time it is the role of UKIP that is worth watching in Addiscombe, where the trouble may be in store for the Conservatives rather than Labour.

UKIP's Peter Staveley: he could benefit from single candidate status in Addiscombe

UKIP’s Peter Staveley: he could benefit from single candidate status in Addiscombe

Unlike in other key wards around the borough, where they are putting up the full slate of three candidates, UKIP have limited their challenge in this ward to just one: Peter Staveley, the mild-mannered transport planner and leader of UKIP in Croydon Central and Croydon South. Staveley comes across as being far too balanced and sensible to be a UKIP candidate.

The differing UKIP tactics in Addiscombe are partly driven by UKIP having too few candidates for the far too many council seats (70) in Croydon. Nevertheless running one or three candidates is an intriguing experiment by UKIP, with Staveley’s one-candidate-only option offering voters to flirt with his anti-politics political party by giving one of their votes to him. It may also have the effect of concentrating all UKIP’s voting support on the single candidate.

UKIP’s campaign has not been high-profile on the streets of Addiscombe but national media coverage and the controversy of the local UKIP party using eastern European migrants to distribute their Croydon literature may be all the publicity needed.

It is noteworthy that the Conservative candidates have been allowed licence to play to the interests of Addiscombe voters, and go against what has been council policy under their Tory colleagues. Whether any of this is deliverable after May 22 seems unlikely.

Yet the Addiscombe Tories have made a promise to abandon the Conservative-run council’s support for the Menta developers who want to build high-rise towers on the eastern side of the main railway line. Promises of cleaner streets also acknowledge the failings of the current Conservative council.

The Labour councillors also have the tricky issue of showing that they have been active on behalf of residents while not being in the party in control of the council. So a focus on local issues, on fly-tipping, on opposing the planning to the Menta Tower, on the move of the district Post Office parcels depot, the bungled £25 million “Bridge to Nowhere” project which has failed to provide the promised link from the ward into the centre of town, and a promise to deliver 20mph zones for those streets which want them will be emphasised in the final days before the election.

Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2014 council elections, 2015 General Election, Addiscombe West, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, Mark Watson, Patricia Hay-Justice, Peter Staveley, Sean Fitzsimons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Labour looking vulnerable to Barwell’s Addiscombe push

  1. davidcallam says:

    Who cares? Well, apart from the committed politicos, who cares?

    The north and south of the borough go about their respective business with little concern for that of the other. It is 50 years since we first elected London borough councils and Croydon acquired Purley and Coulsdon Urban District Council from Surrey County.

    Successive administrations have governed in a partial way, with neither major party reaching out across the town centre divide to the other. Each has become entrenched in its own enclave: South Lambeth or North Surrey.

    We need a real statesperson to reach across the divide and unite both parts of the borough: sadly we don’t have one of those. So, as I say, who cares?

    • davidjl2014 says:

      Your failure to understand local politics beggars belief.
      Even an idiot can see that issues affecting one side of a Borough like Croydon differ from those in another. The job of a local Councillor is to address those that affect those in his or her area they represent and, at the same time, not have the aspirations to become a “statesperson” for political or self financial gain. You obviously wish to promote that. Awful comment, not what local politics is about.

  2. Robin Taylor says:

    Are the Tories really serious about winning Addiscombe? It has never reflected voting across the borough.

    It did for a long time reflect voting across Greater London but in successive electoral cycles has become relatively pro-Labour compared to the capital.

    Unless there is some local issue I don’t know about Addiscombe is likely to repeat the sensible decision it made in 2010 and elect three Labour councillors.

    • Rod Davies says:

      The campaign in Addiscombe has been rancorous with the Conservatives alleging that the current Labour councillors have been inactive. Evidence of email exchanges, meetings etc, suggests otherwise, and following the riots, every party other than the Conservatives was in evidence as we raised funds to help local businesses recover.

      The newly minted Conservatives standing as candidates launched their campaign with a commitment (not promise!) to address the issue of traffic. The subject of petitions and requests for action over many years! But no action!

      Quite why this has suddenly risen on the Conservative agenda can only be due to the election, as they have been singularly disinterested up to date. Immediately the developed ideas for traffic flow reduction were brought out of the cupboard and dusted off. (http://eastcrocomm.wordpress.com/)

      When they were challenged over the “promise”, they began to back track, apparently realising that their candidates had promised too much. The consequence of reducing traffic flows in the areas of complaint would be to push the traffic on to the low-use roads in the Conservative heartlands.

      In attempt to play the “jealousy and resentment” card, the Conservatives alleged that north Croydon will get weekly refuse collection as an indulgence, while the rest of us have to put up with the fortnightly collections which they lumbered us with unnecessarily. The allegation is that the rest of Croydon will be subsidising the Labour heartland of north Croydon. That the areas concerned have a six-time greater population density than the leafy suburbs, and far less space in the form of gardens where wheelie bins can be kept. It’s a public health issue primarily.

      Labour, with some justification, complained foul as the tone of the campaign soured.

      The bulk of Addiscombe probably doesn’t care, it is part of the leafy Conservative heartland.

      But in East Croydon (the western part of Addiscombe) there are a range of major issues that are affecting residents and businesses, for which the Conservatives appear to have no real intention of addressing.

      100% of all regeneration development with skyscrapers etc will occur in East Croydon, while the rest of Addiscombe ward is protected by planning and other restriction that prevent either high density development or traffic pouring through its residential streets. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been poured into the Addiscombe shopping centre, while the East Croydon shopping area is being left to die.

      The cynic in me says the outcome doesn’t matter because as part of inner Croydon, East Croydon falls into the chasm between the Conservative and Labour heartlands, and is regarded by both as a resource to be exploited. I hope with the emergence of a community forum East Croydon can make its voice heard and demand equal treatment with other areas

  3. davidjl2014 says:

    Who cares?…. Probably the people who live in Addiscombe. You presumably don’t.

  4. I will be quite shocked if these three do not get back in, simply on the grounds that they are widely seen as good hard working councillors who serve everyone in their area. At a local level that is the most and the best that you can ask of people.

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