WALTER CRONXITE reports on the likely local consequences of this morning’s announcement of a General Election on June 8Croydon Central, which has been a marginal parliamentary seat for 30 years, where gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell was returned in 2015 with just a 165-vote majority, could see the Tory housing minister re-elected by a margin of more than 5,000 votes at the snap General Election in June.
The unelected Prime Minister, Theresa Maybe, took to the steps of No10 Downing Street this morning to announce that she was abandoning yet another of the “principled” acts of the Tory-led coalition, binning the Fixed Term Parliament Act, in order to hold a General Election on June 8. According to May, the country is united behind Brexit, but those pesky Westminster politicians, from Labour, the FibDems and Scots Nats, are not doing her and her Tory colleagues’ bidding over the outcome of last year’s EU Referendum.
“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back,” May said this morning, deliberately attempting to echo that heroine of the right, Thatcher.
“And as we look to the future, the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe…
“…At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” May said, as if surprised that the opposition parties were… well, opposed to her government.
Today’s election announcement contradicts everything May has said, even since before being anointed as Conservative Party leader last year without an election. She has repeatedly ruled out holding a General Election before the set date of 2020.
As The Guardian is reporting this morning, on June 30, in the speech that launched her bid, she explicitly ruled it out.
Then in her first major interview after taking office she told the Andrew Marr Show last September that the UK needed a period of stability after the shock Brexit vote.
She said: “I’m not going to be calling a snap election. I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”
In her Christmas message in 2016 May also strongly hinted that an early election was not on the agenda by calling for unity.
She said: “Of course, the referendum laid bare some further divisions in our country – between those who are prospering, and those who are not … those for whom our country works well, and those for whom it does not.”
As recently as last month Downing Street said that an early election was “not going to happen”.
So much for Tory politicians and their promises, eh?It means that the country faces more than six weeks of campaigning for a nationwide vote for the third time in two years. So much for stability in the face of Brexit, eh?
The Tories have had a just-working majority of only 12 since the 2015 General Election. But with around 20 Tory MPs facing police investigations over their expenses declarations in 2015, so it could be that May has decided to cut and run now, before her administration is mired in scandal as well as bungling its way through the Brexit negotiations.
And there is a cold calculation in the Conservatives’ decision, hoping to capitalise on the on-going division within the Labour Party, prompted by the refusal of many in the parliamentary party, including Croydon North MP, Steve Reed OBE, to accept the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
With Labour reported by pollsters over the weekend to be 21 per cent adrift of the Tories, Electoral Calculus predicts that Croydon Central will vote 48 per cent for the Conservatives and 37 per cent for Labour, which based on previous election turn-out will see the Tory majority rise to 5,768 votes.
The borough’s two other parliamentary seats, Croydon North and Croydon South, with substantial majorities for their standing MPs, respectively Steve Reed and Tory Chris Philp, are unlikely to be much affected by the national opinion polls – though the snap election does mean that Reed is likely to escape constituency party calls for his re-selection for his part in last summer’s “Chicken Coup” against Corbyn.
In Barwell’s Croydon Central seat, Labour does not, as yet, have a nominated candidate. The 2015 runner-up, Sarah Jones, has the backing of Croydon Council leader Tony Newman – which could be a little awkward if his deputy, Alison Butler, seeks selection once more, as she did three years ago. Inside Croydon understands that the local Constituency Labour Party has called an emergency meeting tonight to discuss selection and campaigning arrangements.
May’s announcement today means that Labour and most of the other parties have now to conduct candidate selection in just a couple of weeks. In Croydon Central, the rarely seen LibDems have already picked Gill Hickson, the underwhelming candidate in Croydon South last time round. So it appears that they have resigned themselves to not contesting the seat seriously, either.
Meanwhile, Tory candidates such as Barwell are likely to hit the ground with their platoons of willing leaflet deliverers before the end of the week.
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