WALTER CRONXITE reports that the latest polling results on the London Mayoral candidate selection are not being reflected in Croydon
Two events, staged for the same audience, at the same venue, just 48 hours apart. The contrast ought to cause some concern for Dame Tessa Jowell, who the pollsters say is leading in the race to be selected as Labour’s candidate to run for London Mayor next year.
The first event, as pictured above, was the outer London constituencies’ Labour Mayoral candidates’ hustings on Monday night, with around 200 attendees from south of the river in the Cedar Hall of Ruskin House. Dame Tessa, despite approaches from the organisers offering a range of dates to suit the former Blair Government minister, did not bother to turn up.
Dame Tessa claimed an existing commitment – so while the other five candidates bidding to be selected by Labour as the party’s candidate for London Mayor debated the issues, she rolled up at another event in Richmond which appeared to be attended by a cosy set of fewer than 20 friends, fans and members of her own campaign team.
Now we have been told, more than once, that there is diminishing public appetite for old-style political debate. Yet Monday’s event was the second within a week when Ruskin House’s funds enjoyed a bumper night from its bar receipts: a week before, there had been an estimated 300 attending for Croydon’s part in Corbynmania.
The contrast between when Jeremy Corbyn came to Ruskin House and when Blairite Jowell turned up for her own gig last Wednesday could not have been starker. Dame Tessa’s campaign lacks the energy, passion and inspiration that has been a feature of the Corbyn campaign. It is hard to see how Londoners who have signed up to Labour in their tens of thousands to vote Corbyn in the leadership campaign will at the same time back the tired old Blairite approach offered by Jowell in the mayoral ballot.
The picture published here is from that bespoke meeting arranged for Croydon’s Labour Party members by “Team Tessa” this week.
The photo was taken just 10 minutes before the woman who could yet be the next Mayor of London arrived. All it lacks is some tumbleweed.
In the end, by the time Dame Tessa arrived for the meeting – one of a handful of similar events being staged across south London that same evening – there were barely 15 in attendance. “And three of those thought they were there to see Kylie Minogue,” said one underwhelmed attendee, referring to a comment made this week by one of her former cabinet colleagues, who’d described Jowell as “Labour’s Kylie”. She should be so lucky…
“Team Tessa” had been dutifully posting pictures of her meetings that evening on Twitter. Few seemed to have more than 20 attendees. All of the pictures included recognisable figures from her own campaign team bulking out the numbers, and usually one or two local councillors who have supported her campaign. No one from Team Tessa bothered to post any pictures from Croydon.
This is a long way short of Corbynmania.
Jowell’s campaign has propped itself up on some polling results that state that she is the only one of Labour’s candidates who could beat the likely Tory runner, Zac Goldsmith. This is polling conducted by YouGov, the same pollsters who predicted that Labour would win 34 per cent of the votes at the General Election. The polling has been conducted for the Evening Standard, a newspaper not known for its diligent investigations into the expensive mayoralty of Boris Johnson, which has strewn the capital with his vanity projects, such as the disastrous Boris Bus and the costly Dangleway, with Londoners picking up the bills.
You may consider that there is a pattern emerging here. Such as the support for the Garden Bridge – a private project that will cost £30 million-plus of public money – from Boris Johnson, the Standard and from Tessa Jowell. Also backing the Garden Bridge is the Chime Communications group; Jowell was recently appointed as executive chair of a subsidiary of Chime Communications, a company which was founded by Margaret Thatcher’s former spin doctor. Her mayoral campaign has also received a £10,000 donation from the chairman of Chime Communications.
At 67, Dame Tessa already has a couple of other little consultancy jobs to keep her and her notorious husband, David Mills, in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. And then there’s also her pension as an ex-MP.
Her performance on Wednesday night suggested that she could benefit from spending more of her time familiarising herself with London and its issues, and the actual powers of the London Mayor.
With so few people being attracted to the opportunity of meeting Dame Tessa as she conducted her semi-regal procession through Croydon, it has been difficult to find anyone who attended on Wednesday night. Or who will admit to attending.
But one who did told Inside Croydon, “Nice lady. She shook everybody’s hand and asked their names. She then gave us 30 carefully measured minutes of her time.
“She claimed again that she missed Monday’s hustings because of a prior engagement, without explaining that she’d been given the option of several dates six weeks before.
“She was poor on local knowledge. Someone asked her about the Beddington incinerator but she knew nothing about it. Her answer about incineration generally was, ‘First I’d ask what the alternatives are’. In south London, it’s a bit late for that. Viridor are about to start building. And with her own house near Crystal Palace, she’s likely to be living right under where the cloud from the incinerator will blow once it is operating.
“Her answer to the housing crisis was to build on Transport for London land. Someone asked if there was any in Croydon. She said she didn’t know.
“She said she was in favour of Heathrow expansion ‘subject to guarantees about air quality, noise and traffic’. She claimed that Heathrow had only been raised as an issue with her in west London.
“She said fare cuts were ‘unaffordable’, but she would freeze fares for one year.
“She claimed to be the candidate best placed to beat Zac Goldsmith.
“But on tonight’s performance, I think she’d have a hard time.”
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