Sources on Katharine Street have told Inside Croydon that bets are already being laid as to who will be the next leader of the Conservative group on Croydon Council.
It seems odds-on that Mike Fisher will stand down as the leader of the Tory group at Croydon Town Hall.
The smart money is being placed on veteran Croham councillor Maria Gatland to become the first woman leader of Croydon’s Conservatives.
There has been speculation about Fisher’s position as leader of the local Tories since even before he led them to a demoralising defeat at the local elections in May.
Immediately following that defeat, Fisher controversially blamed the electorate for daring to exercise their right to vote for their support for UKIP, and then publicly admitted that he had left a “black hole of debt” for the in-coming Labour administration to deal with.
While a Conservative group meeting held on the Friday evening immediately after polling day (and night) opted to, as Cuddly Dudley Mead put it, “not to throw the baby out with the bath water”, there are some within the much-reduced group of Croydon Tory councillors who are openly regretting what has been described as “sleep-walking” into a decision on the leadership.
And some now suggest that it is a safe bet that florid-faced Fisher will stand down very soon.
Fisher, a councillor in Shirley ward who presided over Tory council election wins in 2006 and 2010, has been in ill-health of late and was unable to attend some council meetings in June, according to Tony Newman, his Labour successor as leader of the council, because of hospital visits.
High Street bookmakers Paddy Powell (that’s the high street in Drogheda, County Meath), have dropped a bombshell by installing the Irish-born Gatland as a surprise 2/1 favourite, ahead of Fisher’s two lacklustre deputies, 3/1 shot Tim Dullard and 7/2 chance Mead, who is offered “with a run” – that is, if the aged former Tory leader Mead actually comes under starter’s orders.
In the absence of any real political talent on the Tory front bench, Gatland – despite her colourful background as a gun-runner for the IRA – is seen as a conciliatory figure, both within her own party and across the floor of the Town Hall chamber.
Jimmy the Snark, the bookies’ runner in South Croydon, told Inside Croydon today, “It’s a tight market at the moment, so I wouldn’t stake your house on it.
“But our information is that Fisher’s about to throw in his chips. If that happens, it could be almost exciting as football’s transfer deadline day.” Jimmy was last seen going for a lie-down in a darkened room to avoid getting any more flustered.
All bets were off for Fisher furthering his political career last November, when he gambled by bidding for selection as his party’s parliamentary candidate for the uber-safe seat of Croydon South. Fisher was more red-faced than usual when he failed even to make it to the short-list.
If Fisher does stand down as leader, it could come as a big shock to his system. Having lost the election in May, Fisher saw his leader’s allowances cut from £53,000 per year to £32,000. If he gives up his position as opposition leader, his council allowances could slip below £21,000. Fisher, who has not had a proper job while being the Croydon council leader, is believed to be actively seeking employment.
Others likely to be in the betting market to replace Fisher as Tory leader are Phil “Two Permits” Thomas, although early indications are that he is sufficiently disliked even within his own group to be unbackable at 25/1.
Sara Bashford has some second-hand experience of leadership of a local council’s Tory group, but counting against her is an apparent complete lack of political judgement. It was Bashford who suggested book tokens for residents to replace libraries, and she also approved £20,000 of public money being spent on replacement taps in the toilets of the council’s new HQ building, which will forever be known as Fisher’s Folly. Bashford is 28/1.
It could be inevitable that the thrustingly ambitious new boy, Mario Creatura, a colleague of Bashford with a day job of working for local MP Gavin Barwell, puts himself forward as a leadership candidate, despite only being on the council since the May elections.
The self-declared “gobby factotum” can be backed at 40/1, although the bookies have John Loony at 20/1.
One sure-fire winner, though: Mike Fisher did not respond to Inside Croydon’s invitation to comment.
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Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: The Two Faces of January, Sep 4
- David Lean Cinema: Fading Gigolo, Sep 6
- Thornton Heath Festival, Sep 7
- Stop the Incinerator Quiz Night, Sep 8
- David Lean Cinema: Camille Claudel, Sep 11
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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