Councillor returns to Twitter as MP seeks own Inside Croydon

QUESTION: What does Steve “Three Jobs” O’Connell, the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, and the CIA have in common?

CIAANSWER: They both launched themselves on to Twitter last week.

Whether there are any further “connections” between the two, senior Croydon Council officials with over-fertile imaginations would probably withhold the information and refer to a “need to know basis”.

The deftly judged entrance to the world of Twitter by the American intelligence agency, sent just before 2pm East Coast time from their headquarters at Langley in Virginia on Friday, was, “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

Suffice to say that the early social media activity of O’Connell was less widely acclaimed.

For Britain’s most overpaid local councillor, last week’s emergence of the @SteveO_Connell account marks a return to Twitter.

Steve O'Connell: back on Twitter after a two-year sulk

Steve O’Connell: back on Twitter after a two-year sulk

O’Connell, who is also the Conservative councillor for Kenley ward on Croydon Council, scuttled away into the digital shadows a couple of years ago after he was caught publicly grandstanding on social media about how he was getting tickets for a football match, at the same time that there was a council meeting going on for which he was being paid to attend as a Croydon Council Tory cabinet member. 

O’Connell’s first utterances on Twitter last week included expressing his unlikely vision of getting a Tube link to Croydon (“Challenging Tfl [sic] today about the underground as a member of the Transport Cttee. Be great to get it to croydon and or sutton”). O’Connell would do well to start by working to deliver on the tram route extensions to Crystal Palace and Sutton which he promised alongside Boris Johnson when seeking re-election in 2012.

On June 4, in one of the earliest offerings from his new account, O’Connell referred to his party’s defeat at the local elections in Croydon: “4 years of opposition beckons, now we have shaken ourselves down v look forward to tearing into Labour for the good of the Town.”

Of course, being on Twitter implies a degree of engagement with the public which O’Connell has singularly avoided in the past, despite his trousering £115,000 a year in publicly funded allowances from City Hall and Croydon Town Hall at one stage.

So why the change of heart now?

The Sun wot won itInside Croydon has been made aware of a document circulated to a handful of senior Croydon Conservatives, including O’Connell, ahead of a post-election debrief meeting held last Monday. Drafted by Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, the confidential document was particularly critical of the Croydon Tories’ conduct in social media – in particular the vacuum on Twitter created by the absence of O’Connell and his florid-faced local leader, Mike Fisher.

The document went further to express the importance in local opinion-shaping of this very website, which he mentioned by name. 

Yes, according to Barwell, and to paraphrase a Kelvin MacKenzie headline from 1992, “it’s Inside Croydon wot won it”. Very flattering, of course, but another symptom of Croydon’s Tories wanting to explain away their failure at the local elections by blaming everyone but themselves…

Barwell, of course, faces a stern test if he is to hold his Croydon Central seat at next May’s General Election. In his paper he continued in his assessment to make a thinly veiled appeal for more money to pay for the costs for running a similar, Tory-leaning website – perhaps some form on online Glee Club? – to support his campaign.

In the meantime, he’ll have to make do with the Twitter witterings of his old mucker Steve O’Connell, who when we last checked had attracted the grand total of 50 followers on the social media tool.

Coming to Croydon

Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)

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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
This entry was posted in 2014 council elections, 2015 General Election, Boris Johnson, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, Inside Croydon, Kenley, Local media, Mayor of London, Steve O'Connell and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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