Corbyn tells Croydon: We’re coming for you, Barwell

Hundreds of supporters and interested observers turned out in North End yesterday evening to hear Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, speak at the start of the General Election campaign

STEVEN DOWNES reports as the General Election campaign starts on a high street in south London

It was just a couple of hours after the House of Commons vote which enabled the Tories to ignore their own Fixed Term Parliament Act and set things in motion towards the June 8 General Election when Jeremy Corbyn arrived outside the Alms Houses on North End in Croydon and was handed a microphone.

But before a word had been uttered by the Labour Party leader, his message was clear: we’re coming for you, Gavin Barwell.

Jeremy Corbyn arrived in Croydon with his aide, Patsy Cummings (grey shirt), constantly at his side. Photo: GRANT MELTON

Standing full-square in the Croydon Central constituency of the Nimby housing minister, Corbyn began his campaigning keen to show his determination that a seat which was lost so narrowly to the Tories in 2015 could be won in 2017.

At Corbyn’s side throughout the carefully managed visit was Patsy Cummings, the former chair of the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party and a past council election candidate who is a key member of her party leader’s inner circle.

The people of Croydon turned out in force to hear Corbyn speak. Photo: GRANT MELTON

For her and Corbyn’s policy adviser, Andrew Fisher, another Croydon resident, the choice of their home town for the party’s campaign launch was both practical – just a short drive from Westminster – and symbolic of how one part of their borough would be an election battleground over the next six weeks.

There was no need for bouncers from UKIP, as the local MP Barwell had had at a meeting organised by his Conservative supporters the previous week.

And while Tory Prime Minister Theresa May was flying by helicopter into boos from the people of Bolton, then to visit a golf club and to be locked away in a church with some hand-picked supporters, Corbyn was happy to meet and speak with the public on a south London high street.

“I’m convinced that if every voter could meet Jeremy Corbyn, or hear him speak at a meeting, we’d have a Labour landslide,” said David White, the veteran campaigner and secretary of the Croydon Central CLP who had shared such disappointment on election night two years ago when his party’s candidate, Sarah Jones, had come up just 165 votes short.

Corbyn’s visit attracted the attention of curious Conservatives such as Robert Ward

Word of Corbyn’s visit to Croydon had been circulating for hours.

Curious Croydon Conservative activists, such as Robert Ward, turned up in what he may have thought was a suitable disguise (that CCCP sweatshirt is just soooo last century), to see what was going on.

Ward’s party’s campaign strategist, Aussie pit-bull Lynton Crosby, has already determined that the unelected Prime Minister won’t be doing any television debates with Corbyn (cries of “Frit!” had rung out around the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Questions earlier in the day), and “Sir” Lynton seems unlikely to expose Theresa Maybe to the sort of public exposure Labour’s leader enjoyed with the crowds yesterday at what was a good, old-fashioned political rally.

Quite how well briefed Corbyn was is questionable.

“We want a Labour MP that is going to stand up for the people of Croydon,” Corbyn said. Has he not heard of Steve Reed OBE? Perhaps he has.

Corbyn’s Croydon rally was well-attended by national and local media

Corbyn clearly had Barwell in mind.

Just behind Corbyn was the old Allders building and Whitgift Centre, a sad reminder of how a multi-million-pound property speculation scheme, in which Barwell and Boris Johnson when Mayor of London had intervened on behalf of the land-owners, had left the town centre victim of development blight for the past five years, costing the area business, jobs and security.

“The Labour council in Croydon is building council housing,” Corbyn said. “I want a Labour government that builds council housing.

“I want a Labour government that makes sure that £10 an hour is the Living Wage and is paid to all workers,” Corbyn said. Just behind him was Croydon council leader Tony Newman, looking as if he’s been enjoying the burgers at Boozepark rather too often – for Newman had failed to insist that Boxpark should pay the Living Wage when he handed the company a £3million loan of public money, surely a lesson for other Labour local authorities.

“I want a Labour government that ensures that carers are properly supported when they are caring for loved ones,” Corbyn said, speaking without notes or any prompting device.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking in North End yesterday: ‘We want a Labour MP that is going to stand up for the people of Croydon.’ Photo: GRANT MELTON

This was conviction politics – Corbyn was saying what he really believes in, not just spouting sound bytes which had been honed after hours of testing with focus groups.

“I want a Labour government that ensures that people don’t wait for hours in A&E departments to get treatment,” Corbyn said, mindful, perhaps, that Mayday Hospital up the road had not managed to achieve its waiting times targets.

“I want a Labour government that isn’t closing hospitals, that isn’t so under-funding schools that when the parents take the children back in at the start of the summer term they say goodbye to the children and in return they get a letter saying, ‘Please help us fund the school because the government isn’t providing us with the money for the books and the things the children need’,” Corbyn said.

Selfie awareness: Corbyn was happy to mix with the people of Croydon. Photo: GRANT MELTON

“That is the difference between Labour and the Tories.”

Corbyn was speaking in the knowledge that the pollsters have Labour 20 percentage points behind the Tories at the start of the election campaign. But he also knows that in 2015, he started as the 100/1 outsider to become Labour leader.

As was shown in Croydon yesterday, Labour’s strategy looks to be to harness the “Corbynmania” which attracted tens of thousands of new supporters and members to the party, and roll it out across the country to win over millions of voters. The man painted by much of the mainstream media as Labour’s biggest liability could yet prove to be a real asset.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", 2017 General Election, Allders, Boxpark, Croydon Central, Croydon North, David White, Gavin Barwell, Patsy Cummings, Sarah Jones MP, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman, Whitgift Centre and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Corbyn tells Croydon: We’re coming for you, Barwell

  1. Peter Bell says:

    At last – our leader leading. About time too, Now we just need some really good policies within the manifesto that we can take to the electorate & convince them to vote for the Labour party, its leader and a different society that benefits more of us than the current version. Your report gives hints at where we should be focusing – NHS waiting times (that have steadily increased when not under a labour Govt) Lack of investment in schools (money wasted on vanity Grammar projects and “free” schools) Lack of House building (so putting pressure on everyone under 35 [and some over that]) & most importantly – carers, who EVERYONE agrees should be valued more in our currently unequal society.
    Bring it on – 20% only looks like a mountain when you’re at the bottom of the slope

  2. mraemiller says:

    Surely, whatever party you support a CCCP tee shirt is slightly tasteless by a factor of about 20 million dead?

  3. kindadukish says:

    We have a saying up north which goes along the lines of “some people are born idiots, some achieve idiocy and some have idiocy thrust upon them”………..Jezza is the only man I know who can tick all three boxes!

    • Nick Davies says:

      You know him do you? I’ve never had the pleasure but perhaps you could explain what in your encounters with him has caused you such personal hatred.

  4. davidjl2014 says:

    As usual Jeremy Corbyn opens his mouth and puts his foot in it. On his visit to Croydon this week he blasted down the microphone in the middle of the town centre “I want a labour government that builds council housing” and everybody proudly waving their red banners cheered loudly. No wonder Brother Newman was seen on national television looking as if someone had tipped ice cream down his y-fronts.
    In June 2016 Jo Negrini announced that the Council would build 1,000 houses in Croydon by 2018. Only 9 months left then! To date you can count the number they have actually built on the outside of a dart board. Corbyn as usual proposes one thing, yet his Labour minions are not in tandem. Don’t be fooled by these “pie in the sky” politics. This election is about our future outside the EU, but you have to wonder why someone who wanted remain in Europe seeks to remain in power.

    • Nick Davies says:

      “you have to wonder why someone who wanted (to) remain in Europe seeks to remain in power.”

      That’ll be Theresa May’s motives that you are questioning then.

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