Appearing less “lively” by the day, WALTER CRONXITE reports from what he claims is his 18th hustings of the election campaign so far, this time in Croydon South
“Mind your own business.”
That was the extraordinary response at last night’s public hustings from the man who wants the job-for-life as Croydon South’s MP, Tory candidate Chris Philp.
He said it not once, but twice. Seems like Croydon South is to replace one Conservative MP with an over-weaning sense of entitlement – to public-funded expenses – with another who is a tad over-sensitive on issues relating to his personal wealth.
Philp basically refused to answer the question from the floor asking “How many homes do you have?”
During the debate, it was established that since his selection in 2013, Philp has moved to the constituency – which is more than his predecessor, Tricky Dicky Ottaway, ever did – by buying a home in Coulsdon. But he refused to answer questions in the public forum, held at Croydon High School, which sought to establish how many other properties the “self-made millionaire” owns.
In the week when the Prime Minister attempted to rouse the election campaign from its deadly dull torpor by declaring that he’s feeling “bloody lively” (a bit like he’s feeling like a bloody West Ham fan?), these were easily the liveliest of local hustings staged so far, because in the audience of fewer than 100, there were several supporters of the Class War candidate, Jon Bigger. Between them they haphazardly punctuated proceedings with sustained heckling and a less-reverential approach to the self-important candidates on the platform.
There seemed little point in the hustings chairman calling for courtesy and an end to the disruptive shouting when the principal aim of anarchists is a rejection of governing structure.
Bigger is the oxymoronic anarchist, one of seven candidates around the country from Class War seeking people’s votes in a democratic process. The contradictions in his position were underlined during the evening when he claimed that the Conservatives would bring “chaos”, which you would have thought would be just what anarchists want.
That Class War just have no class was confirmed when they called the Labour candidate a “toff” and “Lady Benn”, when Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader knows very well that the correct title to be employed when addressing the daughter of a hereditary Viscount is “The Hon Emily Benn”.
Philip’s reply when he was accused of being posh was among the highlights of the night: “You clearly have never met my dad”.
When he was accused of being a toff, Philp responded that had not been able to attend the same posh Croydon school as Gavin Barwell because, even when offered a part-scholarship at Trinity, his family could not afford the fees and so he went to a grammar in Bromley instead.
With grammar schools to the left of ’em (Sutton) and grammar schools to the right of ’em (Bromley), Croydon Conservatives are coming round to the notion of having some form of grammars in the borough, as has been suggested in leaflets distributed in Croydon Central by Barwell and in comments by Philp last night. It’s unlikely that the fervent right-winger was entirely aware of the context. Philp made his remarks in the hall of what was once a girls’ grammar which went independent in the 1970s in response to the reforms pushed through under a Tory education secretary: Margaret Thatcher.
Philp, who clearly felt that a grammar school education opened doors for him, announced last night that he would campaign for a grammar school for Croydon, something which may play well with parents facing the prospect of sending their child to an £18,000-per-year private school with charitable status which has just scraped together enough to spend £200,000 on a new piano… Proposals have already been agreed for Wallington County Grammar in Sutton to sponsor a free school to open in the south of Croydon.
Overall, the debate served to demonstrate that only two out of the seven candidates on the stage come near to looking like serious parliamentary material, Philp and Benn.
The LibDems finished second in Croydon South on the wave of Cleggmania in 2010, but the party’s choice of candidate in 2015, Gill Hickson, looked seriously out of her depth. Peter Underwood, of the Green Party, came across as sound, though his campaign is likely to have been out-gunned even by Labour’s modest effort in what is a virtually uncontested seat.
It was notable that there was no enthusiastic applause for the UKIP candidate, Kathleen Garner, to suggest any upsurge in local support for Nigel Farage’s party. This may have been in part due to the personal revelation from Garner that she “showers in a bucket”, something unlikely to win over even the greenest of Green voters.
Philp, who did at least admit that he owns no mansions, promised that he would be “locally active”, a distinct improvement on Ottaway, who deliberately avoided being involved in local matters.
Any faint amusement at the antics of Class War was lost when Bigger called for the “enforced sterilisation” of all members of the Royals. This had overtones less of a Republican “reign of terror”, and more of the eugenics of Nazism.
Bigger was not the only eccentric on the platform, though. The independent “Putting Croydon First!” candidate is Mark Samuel, who stated that he was “probably not electable” and that his target was to top the 239 votes that he achieved in 1992. Nothing like setting your targets high. But then Samuel has a long experience of lost deposits, and having attracted the grand total of three followers on Twitter, he is probably wise to temper his ambitions.
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