Benn’s selection is another sign that the voters always lose

Jon BiggerCROYDON COMMENTARY: Next year’s General Election candidates in the borough’s southern-most constituency confirm the political consensus, says JON BIGGER

The Labour Party today selected the Hon Emily Sophia Wedgwood Benn to stand as their candidate in Croydon South at the May 2015  General Election. My friends in Ruskin House suggest that the vote in favour of Benn was so overwhelming that those backing the two other candidates, in total, would not number enough to constitute “a crowd”.

This selection tells us a lot about the party machines that run our country.

The first thing to note in this instance is that Labour don’t have a chance of winning in Croydon South.

The acceptable face of Thatcherism in 2014? Chris Philp, the next MP for Croydon South

The acceptable face of Thatcherism in 2014? Chris Philp, the next MP for Croydon South

Knowing this, they have a few options. They could select a good local candidate, a down-to-earth working class person who understands how hard life is. Maybe they don’t have any in the constituency?

They could select a true red working class candidate in order to offer some choice against the Thatcher-loving Chris Philp of the Tories. This seems counter-productive on the face of it but it’s a strategy often employed by our major TV stations: you don’t see the BBC putting Eastenders on against Coronation Street, for example.

Or they could do what they’ve done: select a “name” from a long-standing dynasty who shares with Philp strong business credentials.

Emily Benn works in The City with a multi-national bank and has little direct experience of what it’s like to live a life of scraping by, which is what an awful lot of people do in Croydon South. She is getting some experience on how to run election campaigns so that when the time is right, she will move to a safe seat and become the fifth generation of the Benn dynasty to enter Parliament. No doubt her father, the Viscount Stansgate, will be very proud. The hereditary principle lives on in British politics, and it’s as much a part of Labour as it is the Tories.

I wrote an open letter to Croydon Labour suggesting that they get behind my campaign. They ignored me. What I’m calling for in Croydon South is a proper debate about politics. Emily Benn will add little to this debate that Philp can’t already say himself. The narrow confines of debate means we’re always given a choice between a very neoliberal candidate from the Tories and a neoliberal candidate from Labour.

Emily Benn, a PPC again, with her political dynasty, uncle Hilary, left, and her late grandfather, Tony Benn

Emily Benn, a PPC again, with her political dynasty, uncle Hilary, left, and her late grandfather, Tony Benn

Neoliberalism is all about opening up markets to allow competition rather than helping people to get on with their lives. It works on the principle that the market will provide, yet the effect of the policies is a rise in poverty, the use of food banks and pay-day loan companies. Now there’s a market that really provides, at least for shareholders; you can almost see the wealth cascading upwards.

What we need in Croydon South, and everywhere else, is a different form of politics. We need to start to solve the social problems caused by Thatcherite policies. More Thatcherism just compounds the problems.

  • How will Philp or Benn help people priced out of the housing market?
  • How will Philp or Benn help people out of poverty?
  • In a post-Ottaway era, will Croydon South have an engaged MP fighting the corner for constituents?

It’s hard to imagine positive answers to these questions.

Unless something radical happens, Philp will win the election next year and with it a job for life. Benn will go on to another constituency five years later and get a job for life.

They’re the winners. It looks as though the voters have already lost.

Coming to Croydon

Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014)

If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at

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 2015 General Election, Chris Philp MP, Croydon South, Emily Benn, Jon Bigger, Richard Ottaway MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Benn’s selection is another sign that the voters always lose

  1. davidcallam says:

    A thoughtful piece from John which could just as easily have been written about either of the other Croydon constituencies in terms of voter choice.

  2. Robin Taylor says:

    What a mean-spirited article. When I was organising Woodside Labour Party’s leaflet distribution rota I would drop off a bundle to Emily’s really quite modest house (and the leaflets always got delivered, by the way). To castigate someone because of the privileged background of their grandfather is really quite unfair. Croydon South CLP has made an excellent choice.

    • Croydon South members made a choice? We suggested, and were proved correct, that they were presented with a fait accompli.

      Benn’s grandfather spent much of his career attempting to divest himself of his hereditary privilege, much to his credit. His granddaughter says she’s “a Benn, not a Benn-ite”, which seems to suggest that while she is happy to “trade” on the name made famous by her grandfather, she wishes to distance herself from his principles. Nice.

    • Jon Bigger says:

      It’s not about taking the news in good or bad spirit, it’s about the state of our politics. I suppose though, seeing as I’m standing, too, you might not expect me to be full of the joys of spring about an opposition candidate.

      You say it’s unfair to castigate someone for their privileged background. I think that rather depends on what they do with it.

      Someone who works tirelessly to rid our society of economic and political hierarchy would get my respect. Someone who works in The City and therefore by definition is part of the problem will not get my support. Someone who has everything given to them and uses it to support the status quo will not get my support. Emily Benn is New Labour. Does she challenge her mates in The City and defend the rest of us against their excesses?

      Societies recreate the hierarchies that exist within them. We need to challenge that. This selection simply reinforces it.

  3. The Bigger question is how long can some people use Croydon to just advance their political careers? I thought of Miss Benn as an intelligent young lady. She has once again listened to some fools who have encouraged her to stand in a seat where there is no chance of winning. She has to wait for some MP to resign, die, get expelled from Parliament or another 5 years to get a seat where she can win.

  4. derekthrower says:

    The persistence of political dynasties in British politics is very depressing, especially when it is from the party and family who apparently castigate privilege.

    The Benns are able to adapt to the changing UK political system, since even Tony was never really a Socialist. Their brand of politics is humaneering liberalism which can be embraced by the other two established political parties. Tony’s father was a LIberal politician who later joined Labour. I always prefer to brand them as one of the greatest bunch of political opportunists inflicted on the electorate, rather than the media portrayal as the great and good of high principle and ethics.

  5. Pingback: Election watch – Chris Philp vs Emily Benn in Croydon South | Goldblog

Leave a Reply