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.
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.
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.
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:
- Policy analysis 1: The incinerator
- Policy analysis 2: Hammersfield
- Tories accused of ‘lies on a grand scale’ on Council Tax
- Polls predict Croydon Council will be split down the middle
- Council CEO parrots Tory party line in official press releases
- Conservatives snub hustings as sham candidates exposed
- Threat of UKIP forces Tories to press the panic button
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- The list of candidates for the May 22 local elections
Coming to Croydon
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- Songs From The Ledge, Spread Eagle Theatre, May 23
- Greek Myths: stories and mask-making, May 27
- Howard Marks: Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe, May 29
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Tales from Ancient Greece, Upper Norwood Library, May 29
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, May 31
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- An Improvised Murder, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 7
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- 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
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- 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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