A hitherto not very highly regarded sometime member of Croydon Conservatives has been included as the 12th – and last – name on the Tories’ “list” candidates for election to the London Assembly next May.
Jonny Cope is a fully paid-up member of the Gavin Barwell fan club whose only previous claim to fame was to be so poor at the task as the local party’s membership official that the Croydon Conservative Federation had to offer to pay someone to try to reverse the decline. Not that that has helped them much (we’ll return later to how the Tories in Croydon have suffered a 36 per cent fall in membership income in the last five years).
Cope’s most recent attempt at seeking elected office saw him poll fewer than 1,000 votes when he stood as a losing Tory candidate in the 2014 Town Hall elections in South Norwood ward. He will get no closer to being elected to the London Assembly next May, either.
As well as the 14 London Assembly Members elected from constituencies – the Tories have always held Croydon and Sutton, with Kenley councillor Steve O’Connell seeking re-election to this cosy £55,000 per year number – a further 11 Assembly Members are elected from party lists to make the total members from each party proportional to the votes cast for that party across the whole of London.
In 2012, when the last London elections were held, Labour won eight constituency seats, topped up with four more Assembly Members from their list; the Tories won six constituencies and nabbed a further three AMs off the list; and the Greens and LibDems swept up the other proportional places, getting two seats each from their London-wide lists.
Labour is still interviewing potential candidates for selection for its London-wide list. Marina Ahmad has been selected as the candidate to oppose O’Connell in the Croydon and Sutton constituency.
The ConservativeHome website published the Tories’ London-wide list:
1. Kemi Badenoch
2. Andrew Boff
3. Shaun Bailey
4. Susan Hall
5. Amandeep Bhogal
6. Joanne Labane
7. Antonia Cox
8. Joy Morrissey
9. Timothy Barnes
10. Gregory Stafford
11. Kishan Devani
12. Jonathan Cope
The website notes that Badenoch and Boff are already AMs and can expect to be returned to City Hall. If the Tories manage to maintain their three proportional London-wide places then Shaun Bailey, the former advisor at No10 who was rejected by Croydon South Tories as their parliamentary candidate, looks set for elected office.
But the rest? All, especially Cope, are literally just making up the numbers.
How did Cope come to be chosen, even for the lowly 12th slot? “For being loyal to Gavin,” was what our mole at Croydon Tories’ Purley HQ suggested, referring to Cope’s puppy-like devotion to the Croydon Central MP.
“It looks like they’ve scraped the barrel so much, they’ve gone right through the bottom of it,” said someone who claims to have known Cope through the usually well-oiled Conservative Future youth wing.
Cope read history and politics at Warwick and is now a trainee solicitor at Hogan Lovells in central London. He describes himself as an “experienced political activist within the Conservative Party and Conservative Future”. Which just goes to prove that self-praise is rarely much of a recommendation.
From 2012 to 2013, Cope worked as a parliamentary assistant, to Chris Kelly, a one-term MP whose greatest fame came when he emailed fellow Conservatives from his Parliamentary email account asking them to give his sister a secretarial or managerial job. Cope did not last long in the Palace of Westminster, though, where he was thrown out of the Strangers’ Bar on at least one occasion for, according to staff, “being obnoxious”.
At a local level, Cope has held various posts within the Croydon Conservative Federation, including deputy chairman in 2012 and membership officer until December 2013.
Tumbling membership is becoming a bit of a problem for Croydon Tories, not just in terms of boots on the ground at election time, but in raising the cash to pay for the lovingly crafted leaflets and other recyclables their activists stick through people’s doors. From £45,690 in subs received in 2010, by the time the 2014 accounts were filed, Croydon Tory coffers were receiving just £28,978 per year from membership.
The 2011 financial report had noted: “It has been a disappointing year for membership with the declining trend of previous years continuing. A greater focus and increased recruitment efforts are in the pipeline to reverse this trend in 2012.”
The 2012 financial report stated: “It has been a disappointing year for membership with the declining trend of previous years continuing. A greater focus and increased recruitment efforts are in the pipeline to reverse this trend in 2013.”
In 2013, the financial report said: “It has been a disappointing year for membership with the declining trend of previous years continuing. A greater focus and increased recruitment efforts are in the pipeline to reverse this trend in 2014.”
By 2014, with Cope no longer on the committee, they didn’t bother bull-shitting any more. But the sorry figures are there for all to see, down by more than one-third in just five years.
Cope had had some involvement with membership and recruitment for at least two of those years.
Now selected for the Tories’ London list, judging by his Twitter profile, it appears that someone needs to explain to Cope the difference between the London Assembly (for which he is a candidate) and the Greater London Authority, or GLA, which he is not.
So much for that politics degree, eh?
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