There promises to be a “Posh-Off” when Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society stages a General Election debate next Monday – yes, it’ll be January 5 – as the Tory candidate in Croydon South, Chris Philp, takes on Labour’s The Hon Emily Benn.
It is all-so-easy to characterise the event as self-made-millionaire and Conservative Party donor versus the daughter of a Viscount and scion of a political dynasty.
Not that Philp doesn’t have an “inheritance” of sorts: the 16,000 Conservative majority left to him by the expert expenses claimant, “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, who is retiring at the end of the parliament.
The debate, which will focus on the economic plans of Labour and the Conservatives, will be staged from 8pm in the Old Coulsdon Centre, Grange Park, Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon.
You don’t need to be a member of the debating society or even a Coulsdon resident to attend – the event is open to the public.
But apparently, you do need to be a Tory or the daughter of an inherited peerage to “qualify” to take part in the debate, as no other Croydon South election candidates have been deemed worthy of a place on the platform. The LibDems, Greens, UKIP and the local anarchists’ cell all have declared candidates or well-known local figures. And you thought that the two-party duopoly had been broken once and for all.
How do the hand-picked debaters measure up?
Philp: Born in 1976 (he’s 38) in Kent, his father is an archaeologist, his mother is a teacher. Philp had no obvious links to Croydon before being selected by the local Tories to stand in the Croydon South constituency last year.
Benn: Born in 1989 (she’s 25), she lives in South Norwood. Her father is the academic, Stephen Benn and her mother is Nita Clarke, who worked as an adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister.
Stephen Benn opted to exercise his right to claim the inherited title of Viscount Stansgate within weeks of the death of his father, the former Labour cabinet minister, Tony Benn. Tony Benn had spent four years of his life campaigning against inherited titles and to relinquish his own title in order to seek elected office.
Nita Clarke is a member of the board of governors of the Whitgift Foundation.
Emily Benn’s uncle is Hilary Benn MP, the Labour shadow cabinet member. Four generations of her family have been elected to parliament: her great-grandfather William Wedgwood Benn and great-great-grandfathers, John Williams Benn and Daniel Holmes.
Philp: St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington, and University College, Oxford, where he achieved a First in Physics, and completed a Masters in theoretical quantum mechanics. He does not appreciate being called “Sheldon”, apparently.
Benn: Wallington girls’ grammar school, before going to St Olave’s in Orpington (yes, the same school Philp attended) for the sixth form. She studied History and Politics at New College, Oxford.
Philp: Joined McKinsey management consultants after leaving university. Started his first business, Blueheath, in 2000, sold that in 2004 and formed a business training HGV drivers, which he sold on in 2006. Now works as a partner in an asset management company, Pluto Capital, which apparently is big in Montenegro.
Benn: Works in The City as an investment banker.
Philp: Lost at the 2010 General Election when he took on, but lost, to Labour veteran luvvie Glenda Jackson in Hampstead. Had previously been an elected councillor in Camden.
Benn: Lost at the 2010 General Election when she stood in the safe Tory seat of East Worthing. Benn finished third, as the Tory incumbent MP, Tim Loughton, increased his majority. In May 2014, after having applied to be a candidate in every ward in the borough, Benn was elected in the safe Labour ward of West Thornton on Croydon Council.
Philp: Notably to the right of the Conservative Party, he has chaired the Bow Group, is associated with the Freedom Association and The Taxpayers Alliance, and publishes books with the giveaway title Work for the Dole: A proposal to fix welfare dependency. Has worked as an adviser to Andrew Lansley. Yes, the Tory minister who even the Tories admit made a pig’s ear of the NHS.
Benn: Describes herself as “a Benn, but not a Bennite”, which seems to indicate that while she is prepared to make use of the recognition factor of her family name, she eschews the socialist principles of her grandfather. Like her mother and uncle, from the Bliarite wing of Labour.
Local issues: Purley Pool
Philp: Against the closure of Purley Pool, as proposed by Croydon’s Tory council in 2010.
Benn: Against the closure of Purley Pool, as proposed by Croydon’s Labour council in 2014.
Of course, it is entirely possible that the Purley Posh-Off descends into a game of “spot the difference”. Good luck with that.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jan 3
- David Lean Cinema, Mr Turner, Jan 8
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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