WALTER CRONXITE on what could turn out to be another boost for local estate agents, unwittingly provided by Croydon Council
Mark Watson is going nowhere – and that’s official.
Well, at least that’s what the under-pressure Addiscombe councillor told a Croydon Council meeting, effectively saying that he’s prepared to risk losing his place on the council rather than seek selection in another, safer Labour ward.And Watson might get his way if his mates in the Gang of Four who control the Labour group at the Town Hall get their way, and the Boundary Commissioners adopt their suggestion that Addiscombe ward should be split in two for future local elections, beginning in May 2018.
But in issuing his defiant “I’m going nowhere” message in the council chamber, Lebanon Road resident and council cabinet member Watson has handed a gift-wrapped political present to the Tory opposition and managed to embarrass a large number of his Labour councillor colleagues.
Watson’s position as an Addiscombe councillor has been called into question because of the controversy over the one-way routing of residential roads in streets neighbouring his own home, all done by the council last year with minimal consultation to those worst affected. Because while Lebanon Road looks to have benefited significantly, with much reduced traffic, other roads have seen a quadrupling of vehicles driving past their front doors – leading to outright hostility to the Labour-run council, and in particular Watson.
In what has been a battleground ward at the last two local elections, with Addiscombe sitting in the Conservative-held Croydon Central parliamentary constituency, such fine considerations can make a difference at the polling station, especially for a councillor like Watson who in 2014 just managed to retain his seat by a mere 239 votes.
Addiscombe is already served by several active residents’ associations, which while supposedly apolitical often tend to be Tory-leaning almost by default (in 2014, Watson’s closest challenger was a long-standing official from one of the local RAs standing as a Conservative candidate). Anger over the Lebanon Road changes has seen another group set up, the Tunstall and Addiscombe Court Residents’ Association, and their lobbying together with other groups has led the Council to launch a wide-ranging review of the traffic arrangements in the area.
Speaking in the Town Hall chamber last week, Watson sought the moral high ground when he told his council colleagues that it is important to represent the area where they live.
With local elections in 14 months’ time, it’s something certain to be quoted back on the hustings to Labour candidates, including their deputy leaders Alison Butler and Stuart Collins.Butler represents Bensham Manor ward to the north of the borough, although she lives in Addiscombe.
Collins lives in Conservative-voting Shirley while representing Broad Green in West Croydon.
Watson’s self-regarding remarks could prove embarrassing, too, to his fellow Addiscombe councillor, former mayor Patricia Hay-Justice, who lives in Purley.
Labour’s other Purley residents include Bernadette Khan and cabinet member Stuart King, both of whom represent the safe Labour ward of West Thornton.
Living even further south is Hamida Ali, who has an address in true-blue Coulsdon but has a council seat in Labour-supporting Woodside.
In Woodside, Ali works alongside Paul Scott, the husband of Butler and an Addiscombe resident.
South Norwood councillor Jane Avis lives in Selsdon. Croham resident Andrew Pelling represents Waddon, though that can hardly be regarded as a “safe” Labour ward, as it was only won from the Tories in 2014 and could be under threat in 2018.But the Tories have already grasped upon Watson’s remark to make political capital, when at the same council meeting highlighting that a lot of Labour councillors, like Broad Green representative Manju Shahul-Hameed, live in Croydon South, a healthy distance from the residents who elected them.
Of course, Croydon’s Labour councillors could argue that they are only following the example set by the Progress MP, Steve Reed OBE, who has never lived in his Croydon North constituency, preferring to buy a near-£1million house in the Shirley Hills after he got elected to Westminster by his ultra-safe seat.
Watson is part of the close clique which runs Labour’s council group, led by Tony Newman and including Butler and Scott, so it would be fair to assume that he might have had some influential support for taking such a firm and moral position.
But if Watson’s demanding standard, requiring Labour council candidates to live in the ward they seek to represent, is followed in the party selections over the coming months, then there’s going to be a lot of automatic deselections.
Or alternatively, Croydon Labour will be providing a lot of good business for Croydon’s burgeoning number of estate agents.
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