WALTER CRONXITE reports on a late development in the marginal Croydon Central seat which could prove a game-changer
Gavin Barwell’s political career could depend on a pact with the local UKIP candidate, as Blukip comes to Croydon.There’s been suspicions that UKIP’s candidate in Croydon Central, Peter Staveley, has been running a campaign so low-key as to be virtually non-existent. And last night, after going through the motions at a hustings event, Staveley admitted that he’s not going to “waste his time and money” canvassing against Barwell, the Tory MP for the constituency, and the landowning Whitgift Foundation, since 2010.
As the General Election campaign enters its final stages, the absence of an active UKIP campaign – which would be expected to take more votes from the Tories than Labour’s Sarah Jones – could prove decisive in the marginal Croydon Central constituency, which last night’s BBC Panorama programme with American pollster Nate Silver suggested could be as close as just 500 votes in Barwell’s favour.
Staveley’s suggestion of a Blukip pact in Croydon Central goes some way to explaining why Barwell has gone to great lengths to “disguise” his party allegiances, with poster campaigns and leaflets which rarely mention that he is a member of the Conservative Party.
Barwell has even hinted at backing UKIP policies, suggesting that he backs the re-introduction of grammar schools, for instance, something which goes against Tory education policy.
Barwell and his Tory chums at Croydon Town Hall blamed UKIP last year for their defeat in the local council elections, as enough traditionally Conservative voters switched their support to Nigel Farage’s party, seeing Croydon Central wards such as Ashburton – for the first time in history – New Addington and Addiscombe return Labour councillors.
On Sunday, Inside Croydon reported that UKIP might poll 6,700 votes in Croydon Central (based on recent polling in London and other marginals). With fewer than 1,000 votes predicted as the margin between Labour and the Tories, it is easy to see how Staveley’s UKIP support could tip the balance of the election if directed elsewhere.Last autumn, Barwell was polling at 6 per cent behind Jones. But the gap has been narrowed since, to the point where Silver is calling Croydon Central to be as close as 1per cent, with the national election result also looking like a near dead heat. Or what Silver calls a “nightmare scenario”.
Silver developed a reputation as a pollster by correctly predicting the results in every state in the 2012 US election. His task in Britain in 2015 is complicated by this country’s increasingly fractured, multi-party system, especially so since the rise of UKIP.
On Panorama, Silver predicted the national result as the Conservatives on 283 seats, Labour on 270, the SNP on 48, LibDems on 24, the DUP on 8, and UKIP on 1, and the other parties on 16.
Silver’s prediction for Croydon Central is based on national polling, and has shifted from a Labour win by 150 votes yesterday to a 500-vote advantage to Barwell, today. It is fair to suggest that the situation is in flux.
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