Ashcroft’s polling points to election defeat for Barwell

WALTER CRONXITE has got some new batteries for his Casio calculator and what he’s worked out adds up to bad news for the sitting MP in Croydon’s marginal parliamentary constituency

Croydon's Three Stooges, Phlip Philp, Barwell and the other one

Croydon’s Three Stooges, Phlip Philp, Barwell and the other one. Of the three Conservative candidates, only one seems likely to be an MP after next May’s General Election

If you are unlucky enough to get cornered by Gavin Barwell, you are likely to learn of the Croydon Central MP’s woes. He thinks that he is going to lose his parliamentary seat to Labour’s Sarah Jones next May.

But Barwell isn’t sharing his grief just to elicit some pity from those around him. It’s a ploy calculated to get the message out to Conservative voters which his boss, David Cameron, has started to put out there: if they dare to vote for UKIP, then they will get Labour.

But Barwell’s concern also reflects how the national opinion poll figures really do point to a victory for Jones.Predicting elections these days is much more difficult than when psephologist Professor Bob McKenzie operated his simple two-way swingometer. In today’s five-party system in England, never mind in Scotland or Wales where the nationalists are on the march, there are so many flows and counter-currents among voters that simple swings just don’t give the best guide to where the votes will fall and who will be the first past the post.

With UKIP, Greens and even LibDems in the mix, predicting election outcomes is more complicated than in Bob McKenzie's day

With UKIP, Greens and even LibDems in the mix, predicting election outcomes is more complicated than in Bob McKenzie’s day

Opinion polls taken in individual seats by Lord Cashcroft, Barwell’s former boss, do assist in judging where things are going.

Cashcroft polls published this week showed that Labour is continuing their London success, as seen in the May local elections, with very strong showings in the two latest seats in the capital that were analysed. That will have further unsettled Barwell, who was stunned by the extent of Labour’s gains in Croydon, and particularly in his own constituency in May.

Intriguingly, although Cashcroft pays for polling in Tory marginals, he has not yet published anything for the seat of his former aide, Barwell. Have Cashcroft researchers really not yet polled Croydon Central? Or have they done some polling and withheld the figures so as not to embarrass Barwell too much?

Barwell’s problem is that he is being chased out of the seat by as many as one-third of those who, in 2010, voted Tory but who now, according to national polls, are looking to UKIP. The Conservative bleed to UKIP is much more severe than Labour’s.

Peter Staveley: UKIP's candidate in Croydon Central could have a key role in the election outcome

Peter Staveley: UKIP’s candidate in Croydon Central could have a key role in the election outcome

National polls suggest that the “charms” of Nigel Farage are winning over three Tory voters for every two Labour voters that express the intention to vote UKIP. That 3:2 ratio may well be worse for the Tories in southern England.

In Croydon Central, this might mean a notional net loss to Labour of about 3,000 votes, although UKIP’s weaker showing in Greater London may mean a lesser loss of support.

But Barwell faces an electoral conflict on two fronts. In the centre ground, there are disillusioned LibDem voters who may be looking for another party to support, and that is unlikely to be the Conservatives.

The LibDem vote is not huge in Croydon Central. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats thought their prospects so poor in Croydon in 2010 that their election expenses in the Central constituency came to the grand total of £0.00.

There are, though, 6,553 LibDem votes up for grabs, or 13.2 per cent of the vote, based on the last General Election. The LibDems in Croydon are in a weak position, without any councillors, nor even many candidates from May who managed to accumulate a respectable level of support. That suggests that there is little campaigning infrastructure – the “party machine” – to support the candidate, James Fearnley. James who?

Fearnley was selected as the parliamentary candidate in May, though no one among Croydon’s LibDems bothered to inform Inside Croydon. If they announced it to other local media, no one bothered reporting it. Fearnley is an activist parachuted in from Southwark, where he is the vice-chairman of the local party in Simon Hughes’s constituency. The defence of that MP’s vulnerable seat might be enough to distract Fearnley from any serious Croydon campaigning.

And the LibDems face a rout at the polling booths next May. Fearnley’s task will be to retain his deposit by gaining 5 per cent or more of the vote – something like 2,500 votes in an anticipated 50,000 turnout, where people who previously may not have bothered to vote are animated enough by the “UKIP effect” to turn-out, despite the growing disillusionment with what is on offer from the Lib-Lab-Con consensus.

In which box an estimated 3,900 former LibDem voters write their “X” on the ballot paper next May will be crucial to the outcome in Croydon Central. National opinion polls suggest that in Labour will get 1,500 more of these now foot-loose voters than the Conservatives.

Barwell’s plight in this respect will not have been helped by Cameron’s announcements this week on Europe and immigration, aimed at appeasing worried MPs and activists on the right of his party. Cameron’s populist statements about withdrawal from the EU and immigration controls were targeted firmly at Tory voters in Rochester and Strood who are wavering over whether to take their vote in the parliamentary by-election to UKIP with Mark Reckless, as so many Tories in Clacton did with Douglas Carswell.

Barwell campaign badgeBut those are just the sort of policy positions certain to drive a wedge between the ConDem coalition, and persuade former LibDem supporters to cast their votes for Labour, tipping the balance in tight marginal seats such as Croydon Central.

Indeed, the squeeze on the LibDem vote was almost as important a factor in Labour winning Croydon Council in May as the dreadfully negative campaign run by the local Conservatives and the loss of voters to UKIP.

While the latest announcements by his own party leader are doing nothing for Barwell’s prospects of re-election, at a local level, Barwell’s own remarks in the local press attacking the conduct of the Conservatives’ council election campaign can only reduce the enthusiasm of local councillors, and some former councillors, to support him. Given the MP’s intimate involvement in the council election campaign, from using letters from his parliamentary office to try to recruit new party members, to his use of a council-funded anti-violence charity to engage young voters, there are some Tory council candidates who now see Barwell as a significant factor in the Town Hall election defeat.

Barwell also faces the effects of demographics, which has relentlessly changed Croydon North from two Conservative seats to become Labour’s 41st safest seat in the country. This demographic change does not halt at the gates of Addiscombe, Ashburton and Woodside wards on the northern top of the Barwell’s parliamentary constituency, either.

How the wards of Croydon are represented by councillors since May: the Tories lost four council seats in Barwell's Croydon Central

How the wards of Croydon are represented by councillors at the Town Hall since May 2014. The Tories lost four council seats in Barwell’s Croydon Central, where five wards out of eight are now Labour

In the five years since he was elected to parliament, Barwell may have suffered a net loss of 2,100 votes to Labour, based on current Greater London demographic change rates.

Barwell will also know that Labour are doing very well in the rest of London. Opinion polls in Enfield and in Brentford and Isleworth, conducted by Lord Cashcroft and published on Thursday show healthy leads for Labour compared to seats with similar Tory majorities outside Greater London. This momentum for Labour in London is likely worth another 1,000 votes for Sarah Jones.

Are there any upsides for beleaguered Barwell? Well, there’s about £500,000-worth of public money, spent on staffing his Westminster and constituency office over five years, which like many incumbent MPs who are more concerned with their own careers than their constituencies, he has been utilising at every opportunity. That will probably slow Jones’ momentum by a little more than 1,000 votes.

And Croydon Central has another fascinating facet to confound the old swingometer, and that’s the “Pelling factor”.

The previous Conservative MP for the constituency, Andrew Pelling, stood against Barwell as an independent in 2010. Pelling drew 3,200 votes four years ago, it is assumed mostly from regular Tory voters who remained loyal to their constituency MP. Many of those seem likely to vote Conservative once more.

Barwell appears to think those Pelling votes need to be wooed. Extraordinarily, in his early campaign literature, Barwell even included a quote from Pelling (though, true to form, the quote was used completely out of context so as to mislead as to the true intention of the comment).

Labour candidate for  Croydon Central: Sarah Jones, the bookies' favourite

Labour candidate for Croydon Central: Sarah Jones, the bookies’ favourite

Barwell is shrewd enough not to take all those Pelling votes for granted. Long-time Conservative voters, who have experienced the sensation of voting outside party lines once, might be just the sort of people who this time around will consider a protest vote again.

Whoever it was that said of betting that “the house always wins” (was it Mike “#WadGate” Fisher?), must have had in mind the odds which bookmakers Ladbrokes are offering on the Croydon Central election, with challenger Jones at odds-on and the incumbent MP at evens.

The bookies blame the Pelling factor. “One of the reasons that this seat is so difficult to predict is the impact that former Tory MP Andrew Pelling had on the 2010 result,” Matthew Shaddick, Ladbrokes’ head of political betting, said. “He stood as an independent but if the 6 per cent of voters who backed him then return to the Conservative fold, maybe Barwell can hang on.”

Both Barwell and Pelling went to the same minor public school, Trinity. There is one other Old Mid-Whitgiftian upon whom Barwell could rely for an endorsement and who was also a candidate in Croydon Central last time around. Step forward John Loony, also known as John Cartwright, formerly of the Monster Raving Loony Party, who was so warmly welcomed as a member of the Croydon Conservatives.

Loony/Cartwright could try to get all his 192 voters from 2010 to support the Trinity side of what will still be a Whitgift Foundation-dominated battle next May – Sarah Jones went to Old Palace, where her mother was headmistress.

An election victory based on Loony votes might just sum up the plight of Barwell. Otherwise, by a margin of around 1,500 votes, Croydon looks likely to have its first woman MP next May.

Based on the latest opinion polls and the other assumptions outlined above, I predict the Croydon Central result next May as:

Labour 18,750 (37.5%)
Cons 17,150 (34.3%)
UKIP 8,300 (16.6%)
LibDems 2,600 (5.2%)
Greens 2,100 (4.2%)
Others 1,100 (2.2%)

  • Walter Cronxite, Inside Croydon’s tame psephologist, correctly called the council election as 40-30 seats to Labour in May


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  • 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

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This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Addiscombe West, Andrew Pelling, Ashburton, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, Peter Staveley, Sarah Jones MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Ashcroft’s polling points to election defeat for Barwell

  1. tomvoute says:

    So according to this prediction the Labour candidate is expected to enter Parliament as Croydon Central’s MP even though 64.5%, significantly more than half, of the electorate actually voted AGAINST her. If you assume that the percentage of voters who can’t be bothered to vote at all will similar to last time, i.e. about 35%, the Labour candidate is expected to “win” on the basis of 23% of the electorate actually voting for her. That’s not much of a mandate! Multiply this kind of outcome by dozens of marginal seats, and take also into account the factor of “safe seats” and it becomes obvious that everywhere in this country peoples’ votes do not carry equal weight and under the present idiotic voting system Parliament cannot possibly claim to represent the wishes of the British people.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    Ahh… yes, well as “derekthrower” has noted it is indeed the peculiarity of UK democracy. A while back exponents of the the First Past the Post system argued that it produced strong single party government. They have been quiet of late, following the 2010 election.
    The First Past the Post system prevents the emergence of the very Un-British Dictatorship by the Masses and ensures that a minority hold sway over the majority. It’s a quaint approach that has served Britain badly for decades.
    Rationally we should get rid of this system.
    Our approach to electoral reform is much like our approach monetary metrication. We adopted the florin (10p in today’s money) somewhere around the end of the 18th C, but realised it was essentially foreign and so abruptly brought all steps towards currency metrication to a halt to remain with our eminently simple British system ( 4 Farthings = 1 Penny, 12 Pennies = 1 Shilling, 24 Pennies = 1 Florin, 30 Pennies = Half a Crown,10 Florins = 1 Pound, 20 Shillings = 1 Pound, 21 Shillings = 1 Guinea, thus 240 Pennies = 1 Pound, and so 960 Farthings = 1 Pound, any British child could understand it and did so for a long long time.) Got that?? Simples!
    It was British and Ours! Eventually due to the high level of immigration and the introduction of the pocket calculator UK adopted the current system of 100 Pence to 1 Pound about 2 centuries later. At which point we got rid of the foreign florin and called it 10p. Ever since the levels of numeracy have fallen year on year. That we called our currency system LSD is mere coincidence, and was only mind altering for foreigners.
    Basically electoral reform is the same. Proportional Representation has been tried out in some unimportant areas, and shown to be eminently sensible if someone, anyone, wants a viable and fair democracy. However, the rejection of PR shows and the absence of protest shows that the majority of British people don’t want democracy beyond claiming to be the world’s oldest democracy. One day in the distant future UK shall adopt PR and the Houses of Parliament will be full of people who truly represent the will of the people. They will probably be rather lack lustre technocrats who wont bray and hurl pathetic insults at each other across the floor of the house like tea time in a mediocre public school, and we wont like it one bit.

    As long as we have the Welfare State and the Houses of Parliament we’re happy – Bread & Circuses, old chap, Bread & Circuses!

    “iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses.”

  3. Is that a quote from Juvenal or Johnson ?

  4. I met a voter who voted for UKIP in the European elections said that he will vote for Gavin in 2015 as there is no point in voting for UKIP in a general election.

  5. Croydon Central residents can be assured that I wasn’t parachuted in to stand in this constituency but applied and was democratically selected by our members. I applied because I care passionately about the issues that concern residents in Croydon and want to see the Liberal Democrats offer residents a choice that isn’t just ‘Blue vs Red’. At the hustings I was fortunate enough to be selected at the end of the process by the local membership. You are right to identify the challenges of infrastructure for the party in Croydon and building up that infrastructure will be a key part of what the local party will do over the coming years – that is a challenge I and the others are looking forward to. You say yourself that there are centrist voters out there looking for a political home. We agree. With both parties moving to the right and the left respectively it is our role to offer show the residents of Croydon that we have a distinct and authentically liberal voice on the issues that matter.

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