Last week’s Sutton Council by-election result was bad news for Labour and worse news for any campaigns to halt the incinerator at Beddington Lane, reports WALTER CRONXITE
Candidates who oppose the Beddington Lane incinerator won 55.9 per cent of the votes in last week’s Wallington South by-election in Sutton. But it was the pro-incinerator Steve Cook, for Sutton’s Liberal Democrats who are pushing through with the incinerator scheme, who held the seat under a first-past-the-post voting system which their party usually holds in disdain.
Just because incinerator operators Viridor recently handed over £275,000 for work on a local church which is regularly used for political meetings by the LibDems, including MP Tom Brake, doesn’t mean the Wallington South council seat was in the Liberals’ “gift”. But a tough task to lever one Sutton Council seat out of LibDem control was made more difficult for those opposing the incinerator, as their votes were divided between Greens, Tories, Labour and an overtly anti-incinerator independent candidate.
Thursday’s by-election result reflected the gathering strength of the Tories, who managed to oust Paul Burstow as the Sutton and Cheam MP in the general election, when Croydon-based businessman Paul Scully – a PR spinner for the Hammersfield shopping mall – was elected.
Thursday’s voting also shows how the outcome of the General Election has hurt UKIP, and also how the Labour Party is struggling to define itself.
The Tory vote share in Wallington South more than doubled, up by 17.3 per cent to 33 per cent, but the LibDem vote was also up from last year’s local election, by 7.2 per cent to 44.1 pre cent. The collapse in the UKIP vote, by 11.7 per cent to 5.9 per cent, really aided the Tory cause.
If repeated in a council election across Sutton, the 4.25 per cent swing from the Liberal Democrats to Conservatives would double the Tory representation to 18 councillors, reducing the LibDem majority to 18.
The Labour Party moved from being fifth in 2014 to third this time around. But with a typically low turnout for a council by-election, it was just a single vote out of 361 that saw the Labour candidate pip “No To The Incinerator” independent Duncan Mattey. Mattey is the son of sitting councillor Nick Mattey, who has been suspended from the LibDems on the council since whistle-blowing over details about the incinerator scheme.
Labour’s vote was down by a quarter in a seat where traditionally they struggle. In 2014, the ward gave Labour its fourth poorest vote share among Sutton’s 18 wards.
The Mattey campaign’s direct involvement in the election will have compromised support from people with connections in local political parties. Their relatively poor showing in the polls, and that of the Greens, may prompt politicians in Croydon and Sutton to quietly drop the incinerator as a political issue of concern.
The incinerator issue may well only be of importance in marginal wards such as Waddon, which would clearly return to the Tory fold along with Ashburton and Addiscombe wards if Croydon’s Labour vote fell by the same proportion as in Wallington South. Such a three-ward loss would deliver Croydon Council to Conservative control.
Labour will be hoping to push on to capture the Croydon and Sutton London Assembly seat next year, having run Tory incumbent Steve O’Connell close in 2012. The swing required for a Labour win is 2.15 per cent. A Labour gain, in a seat where the party will select their candidate from an all-woman shortlist, will need to see Labour persuade Sutton’s voters to give up their reluctance to vote Labour.
Wallington South by-election, June 11
LibDems 1,251 (44.1% up 7.2% )
Conservatives 936 (33.0% up 15.7%)
Labour 181 (6.4% down 2.2%)
No to the Incinerator 180 (6.4%)
UKIP 164 (5.9% down 11.7 %)
Greens 122 (4.3% down 3%)
- Tom Brake link to £275,000 church donation from incinerator company
- Secretive incinerator scheme is a bad deal, say Sutton Tories
- Sutton official tried to influence vote at incinerator meeting
- Infant death rates on the rise where incinerators operate
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014.
- Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 729,297 page views in 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 firstname.lastname@example.org