UKIP party members in Croydon South this afternoon choose their parliamentary candidate to contest next May’s General Election. Politically, it may prove to be Winston McKenzie’s last stand.
Greater London offers pretty poor electoral pickings for the Eurosceptic party, but Croydon South could be an exception. In the recent council elections, UKIP came second in five of the eight wards in Croydon South, in a parliamentary constituency where 21 Conservative councillors were elected out of a possible total of 24.
UKIP in Croydon South has a real chance of portraying itself as the main challenger to the Tories, where at the last General Election in 2010, arch-expenses claimant “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway was re-elected with an increased majority.
Bookmakers Ladbrokes price Labour, who select their “futile sacrifice candidate” next Saturday, and UKIP as both 25/1 shots to challenge Chris Philp, the Tory Party donor selected by local Conservatives to replace Tricky Dicky, whose 15,000-vote majority inheritance makes Philp the 1/50 on favourite.
It is uncertain whether UKIP will be rated even as 25/1 chances of winning if McKenzie is selected today from the five candidates on the short-list.
The former boxer is chairman of the Croydon North and Lambeth UKIP party, and was the parliamentary candidate in Croydon North at the 2012 by-election. The 5.7 per cent vote share that McKenzie secured in that election in a part of London unsympathetic to UKIP was modest, though he saved his deposit.
This despite McKenzie managing to embarrass his party in that election by pursuing a homophobic campaign of innuendo against Labour’s Steve Reed, in which he also asserted that it was “child abuse” for gay couples to adopt.
Over the past decade, McKenzie has been a serial election candidate, never winning public office, and managing to stand at some point for almost every available political party, with the exception of the Greens and the Monster Raving Loonies. Simply by seeking selection in Croydon South, UKIP members in the north of the borough could be justified in asking whether McKenzie is being too opportunistic, or just disinterested in Croydon North.
But it is the PR car crash of the chaotic UKIP “carnival” outside the Whitgift Centre before the recent local elections which does the most to undermine UKIP, and McKenzie in particular, as a credible candidate. McKenzie’s motormouth approach to politics – put on display again most recently in an incoherent rant when BBC’s Question Time came to Croydon – simply opened up UKIP to further ridicule.
McKenzie’s calling Croydon “a dump” ought to have been the final straw for his political ambitions locally, even with UKIP. It would bring to an end a political “career” that has been as unsuccessful as his attempts to be the promoter of a borough-wide youth sports festival, or the proprietor of a Thornton Heath bar and grill, which closed after 17 months of operation in 2002 following a police drugs and guns raid.
In a party best-known for eccentrics, Croydon South’s Kippers – who number fewer than a sixty – might decide the time has come to look to be represented by a safer pair of hands.
Elizabeth Jones, the chairwoman of UKIP’s party in Southwark party, appears to be McKenzie’s main challenger. The Cardiff University graduate with a past career in family law joined UKIP in 2010. She has some political experience as the third candidate on the UKIP party list in the recent European elections in London.
Jones’s very clear, enunciated diction, reminiscent of something from a 1950s newsreel, perhaps explains a rather haughty view of life. She describes her interests as “unashamedly elitist” but with “a very wide social reach, from high life to low life”, Jones is anti-military interventions in the Middle East and, in line with her party’s policy, is in favour of local referendums if sought by 5 per cent of the electorate.
Jones has cut her political teeth on the very stony ground for UKIP of inner London. She states that one canvass found her walking into the middle of a police stakeout, which was probably more noteworthy than the very modest shares of the vote – never more than 4 per cent – that she has managed on the five occasions she has had her name on the ballot form.
She says that all these forlorn election efforts, “at least gives you good legs”.
Also standing this afternoon is the more softly spoken Kathleen Garner, who knows the patch well as the only candidate living in the constituency and who has run in the last four local council elections back to 2002 for wards in Croydon South. Garner feels that there are many areas of social disadvantage in Croydon South that are neglected and wants to give a voice to “the ordinary people”.
UKIP’s candidate in the seat last time, Jeff Bolter, lives just across the Surrey border. He is a former police officer whose last posting for 15 years was at Addington Village’s police station, where he was regarded as a friendly face of the local police service. He is critical of cuts to police numbers and of the Kenley police station closure. He worries about the temporary relocation of the Purley fire station engines all the way to Mitcham.
Bolter is encouraged that “19,000 voted UKIP at the Croydon council elections”, and like Garner, he says he wants to help the lower paid by axing taxes for the working poor.
Former Labour party member and Woodside resident Ace Nnorom feels that UKIP “is for the time” and favours control of migration, as he feels that free movement of EU people as leaving the country open to criminals from eastern Europe, but does not see the party as racist.
Coming to Croydon
- South Norwood Arts Festival, July 5-20
- Croydon Folk and Blues Festival, July 12
- David Lean Cinema: Half of a Yellow Sun, July 17
- Love Norbury launch event, July 19
- David Lean Cinema: Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist, July 21
- David Lean Cinema: Tracks, July 24
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- David Lean Cinema: Locke, July 31
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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