In a quiet moment, WALTER CRONXITE has been crunching some numbers, and has found that if there was to be a snap General Election in 2017, little would alter as far as Croydon’s MPs are concernedThere is a significant number of parliamentary by-elections already likely to take place this year in what are Labour-held seats. Some Labour MPs have suddenly discovered that the ceramics are more charming in the V&A than in the Potteries or they are running for very winnable Mayoralties in cities, instead of sitting behind or beside Jeremy Corbyn while biting their tongues.
It all means that there is a real prospect that Theresa Maybe could be the first Prime Minister to gain a seat in a parliamentary by-election since Margaret Thatcher saw Angela Rumbold take Mitcham and Morden in 1983. Any such gains might just tempt the Tories’ unelected Prime Minister to forget about all this fixed-term parliament nonsense and seek her own mandate from the country.
A glance at social media reveals that Croydon Labour is expecting an early contest. They are already out in force locally in Croydon Central just in case of a snap election.
Their busy canvassing underlines just how much of our councillors’ role is to be publicly funded leaflet-deliverers and door-step questioners, when they ought to be dedicated to serving the residents in their own wards and to holding powerful council officials to account.
The picture above, taken last week in increasingly marginal Addiscombe ward, shows 18 Labour councillors out of the total of 24 “activists”. Maybe other party members have more pressing commitments in the real world outside the Town Hall politics bubble to spend so much time leafleting?
The Labour councillors/canvassers are, though, wasting their time (more so than usual), because Croydon’s two sitting Tory Members of Parliament look certainties to get re-elected if voters are asked to pass judgement on the government and the Corbyn opposition.
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell thinks his Labour opponents in Parliament are hapless, saying last week in reaction to the news that Tristram Hunt, who was apparently a Labour MP, had resigned to move into museum curation, “Our democracy relies on one of our opposition parties being a credible alternative government. We don’t have one at the moment.”
It’s not yet clear whether Labour in Croydon has worked out what its message to voters should be after nearly three years in charge of the Town Hall, nor whether they actually have achieved much at all since being elected in 2014.
Last week, when Mark Watson was up before the inquisition that is the scrutiny committee to talk about employment and jobs under the Labour council, he repeatedly, and perhaps inadvertently, referred to “quick wins”. In so doing, Watson really gave the game away, because it is a phrase common in political circles when used to talk about tangible things which those seeking election can talk about to the electorate.
Thus, “creating” 50 (probably poorly paid) jobs among the 40 outlets in Boozepark, after throwing millions of pounds of public money at the food and drink venue business, is regarded by Watson and his clique as a “quick win”. Watson seems to believe that a mushroom farm where Reeves Corner’s furniture store stood before the 2011 riots is a “quick win”. And the £1million spend on what might turn out to be a botch job along Surrey Street is another “quick win”, something tangible to point to come the local elections in 2018.Because elsewhere, there’s little for Tony Newman’s Labour group to really boast about.
Despite their best efforts, after retaining the same contractors there is no discernible improvement in the state of our streets. The landlord licensing scheme has been introduced, but evidence suggests the council is too understaffed to ensure that tenants get a fairer deal. And for all Newman’s boasts about being a Living Wage borough, he hasn’t even managed to get Boxpark to sign up to the Living Wage register, despite handing them a multi-million-pound loan.
On the big infrastructure projects, the council’s record remains abject – as it has been for two decades. There’s no concrete action on Westfield, the Taberner House site remains dedicated to growing a few crocuses rather than building homes, and even the council itself is now admitting that the re-opening of the Fairfield Halls won’t be happening until autumn 2018 – long after the May-time elections.
On the broader, parliamentary stage, Martin Baxter’s respected Electoral Calculus polling site has Barwell romping to victory in Croydon Central were a Westminster election to be held now, with a majority 24 times larger than his inept campaign managed when he scraped in with a 165-vote majority in his latest brush with political oblivion in 2015. Electoral Calculus sees Barwell getting 24,356 votes to Labour’s 20,412, a majority of 3,944.
Sarah Jones, Labour’s bitterly disappointed candidate in 2015, is supported by Newman to be the candidate again, but since her election defeat, she has not been running any campaigns in her own name, although she has taken on the influential chairmanship of the constituency Labour Party.
At least an election loss in 2017 would not be as big for Labour as if the election was held under the revised parliamentary boundaries proposed for Croydon and due from 2018. With blue heartland Purley and Croham wards to be moved into the proposed Croydon Central seat, under those boundaries Electoral Calculus has Barwell winning by almost 5,000 votes, 24,734 votes to 19,804 votes. It would render Croydon Central, which has become a highly contested marginal, twice decided by fewer than 200 votes, a safer seat than it has been for 20 years.Despite such helpful proposed boundary changes, the brains trust at the head of Croydon Tories still tried to push for alternative borders for the borough’s parliamentary seats. Chris Philp, fortunate to be the MP for Croydon South with its unchallengeable Tory majority, urged local residents to write to the Boundary Commission to make the case for keeping together Waddon, Croham, Purley and most of Sanderstead in Croydon South.
Philp was willing to see true-blue Selsdon join Barwell’s Croydon Central as long as he did not have to have Forestdale, Monks Hill, Addington and New Addington in his constituency. Waddon, Philp told residents, had “always been” in Croydon South. Which, as you’d expect from a political parachutist like Philp, is complete and utter garbage, because Waddon was in Croydon Central when its MP was John Moore and he was serving in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. As an anti-strikes, free-marketeer uber-Thatcherite, you’d think Philp would know such basic details about the area he has represented for a whole 21 months…
The next stage in the parliamentary boundary review process will be in the spring, when the Boundary Commission is to publish the responses received to the first round of their proposals. No one is expecting many shocks.
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