WALTER CRONXITE reports on election boundary proposals which have seen the local Tory MP get into bed with Sutton’s LibDems to help save each other’s Parliamentary careers
If you thought that the unholy alliance in national government with the coalition between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats ended up with some disastrous consequences for the country, then spare a thought for the council’s Labour leader, Tony Newman.
Newman seems to have been ganged up on by his political opponents in Sutton and Croydon, with potentially dire consequences for his own party’s future prospects.
We have already reported how Newman’s clumsy attempts to gerrymander borough ward boundaries in favour of his own party appear to have back-fired, and badly, with the Local Government Boundary Commissioners opting to cut and paste Croydon Tories’ preferred boundaries into their preliminary report.
Now it looks as though the local Labour party has been outmanoeuvred on new Parliamentary boundaries for Croydon, too, with proposals aimed to provide greater career security for sitting MPs Gavin Barwell and Tom Brake.
Time for comments to the Boundary Commission for England runs out today.
Croydon has had a Parliamentary seat in Croydon Central that has been closely contested between Labour and the Conservatives since 1974. The Tories have edged the seat by small margins: 164 votes in October 1974; then by 75 votes in 2005; and, most recently, at the 2015 General Election, by 165 votes in favour of Barwell.
Unlike the local ward review, this Parliamentary boundary review was instigated by the Conservative government, aimed at reducing the number of MPs at Westminster in total, and seemingly targeting many Labour seats, or seats where Labour might have had a chance of winning.
The Commission has already proposed a revised Croydon Central seat which, based on the 2015 vote and with the helpful inclusion of Terry and June‘s true blue Purley ward, would have seen that Tory winning margin stretched to 939 votes (voting figures being calculated using the highly respected Electoral Calculus).
But just as the Conservatives did when they needed some help in taking power at Westminster in 2010, the Tories in Croydon have now got into bed with the Liberal Democrats to avoid Carshalton and Wallington’s MP, Brake, having Croydon wards in any reconfigured seat, which would have been to the LibDems’ potential disadvantage.
Instead of any cross-borough constituencies, as had previously been suggested, the most recent LibDem-Tory proposals would see the south of Croydon split down the middle, to create Parliamentary seats with strong Conservative voting components, and removing the marginal nature of Croydon Central.
Under the LibDem-Tory south London coalition of convenience, the two seats would be made of the following wards (all based on the pre-2017 ward boundaries):
Croydon South East
Selsdon and Ballards
Croydon South West
On current opinion polls and Electoral Calculus ward by ward analysis, Croydon South East would be won by the Tories by 12,030 votes, or a dominating 24 per cent, and Croydon South West – made up predominately of the ultra-safe Croydon South constituency – by 17,937 votes or 33.9 per cent.
Labour would likely need to be 7 per cent ahead in the national opinion polls to believe that the Croydon South East seat to be a prospect worth competing for. Currently Labour are 17 per cent behind the Tories in national opinion polls.
If these boundary proposals go through, it will be the second significant reverse this year at the hands of the Commissioners suffered by Labour in Croydon under the leadership of Tony Newman.
Labour secured a review of the borough’s ward boundaries with the intent of making Croydon’s 38 council seats safer.
But the Local Government Boundary Commission for England have pretty much accepted Conservative proposals for the ward boundaries.
The Commission’s boundaries have been described as “a Frankenstein monster of a proposal” by one Katharine Street source.
Based on the last local election results, this would lead to Labour losing three seats and the Tories gaining those three seats creating a 37 Labour to 33 Tory balance – though this is calculated before any negative effects from voter negativity about Corbyn.
The Commission has said that it was impressed by the number of submissions supporting the Tory proposals. There were no comments from any members of the public in favour of the Labour-controlled council’s proposals, which had been drawn up for Newman by his close colleague, Paul Scott.
Labour will have to do much better in the second round of consultation on the proposals if they are to rescue anything from the situation. That consultation closes on May 8.
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