With two days to go until the London elections, and “Silent Steve” O’Connell, the London Assembly Member for Sutton and Croydon, has found himself in a double squeeze which could see him kicked off the City Hall gravy train where the senior Tory has managed to trouser more than £500,000 of public cash for doing very little over the past eight years.
At the previous London elections in 2012, O’Connell lost the popular vote in Croydon, the first time ever that Labour had out-polled the Conservatives in this borough.
But voters in LibDem-controlled Sutton helped him hang on to a 10,000 vote majority and his annual allowances.
So imagine Silent Steve’s dismay today when a senior Liberal Democrat wrote an appeal for his party’s supporters to back Labour’s Sadiq Khan for London Mayor and reject the “nasty, desperate and dog-whistling campaign” of O’Connell’s colleague, Zac Goldsmith.
It is eight days now since Marina Ahmad, O’Connell’s Labour rival for Croydon and Sutton, invited the Croydon Tory to reject the divisive and racist campaigning which had accompanied multi-millionaire Goldsmith’s efforts to become London Mayor.
Since when, there’s been silence from O’Connell.
And with Green Party Mayoral candidate Sian Berry today recommending her supporters to make good use of their second preference votes by voting for Khan, O’Connell’s hopes of having another cosy four years at City Hall under a Tory Mayor are beginning to look ever more remote.
With the LibDems retaining some polling strength in Sutton, the letter to The Independent from senior London Liberal James Fearnley could do the most damage to O’Connell’s prospects there.
Fearnley stood for the LibDems as the parliamentary candidate in Croydon Central at last year’s General Election. He had been highly regarded within his party in London, having worked closely with Simon Hughes when he was MP in Bermondsey.
But today, Fearnley expressed his disgust with Goldsmith’s campaign and directed LibDem voters to vote Labour on Thursday.
“At this election only Sadiq Khan is capable of putting into practice the values that LibDems care about,” Fearnley wrote.
“Sadiq represents the kind of grown up, progressive politics that LibDems believe in and that’s why I intend to campaign for Sadiq and I urge all LibDem voters to back him.
“It is especially important that we stop Zac Goldsmith. He has run a nasty, desperate and dog-whistling campaign that is simply not acceptable in the modern world.”
A sentiment which Silent Steve O’Connell has found impossible to support.
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