WALTER CRONXITE reports on how cross-party election agreements have encountered significant problems in south LondonThe so-called “progressive alliance”might not be quite as “progressive” as it has been made out to be if some of the shenanigans going on between the FibDems who control local politics in Sutton and the environmentally concerned Greens are anything to go by.
Last year, the Greens gave the FibDems a free pass at the Richmond Park by-election, opting not to field a vote-splitting candidate against Sarah Olney. Ahead of the June 8 General Election, Liberal Democrats have announced that they will not oppose the Greens’ co-leader, Caroline Lucas, defending her seat at Brighton Pavilion.
That’s hardly the generous gesture that it might at first seem: in 2015, after five years of keeping the Tories in power, the FibDems finished a deposit-losing fifth in Brighton Pavilion.
And matters are no more straightforward in Sutton, where the Viridor incinerator and the FibDem-run council’s chaotic bin collection service have been close to the top of the environmentalists’ agenda.
The Greens have never had so much as a single councillor elected in Sutton, or in Croydon.
But over the past three years they acquired a vocal supporter in Nick Mattey, elected as a LibDem councillor in Beddington North but who turned whistleblower out of disgust with his council’s highly questionable stance over the incinerator in his ward.
Mattey’s principled opposition, supporting the Green-backed anti-incinerator campaign, saw him expelled for disloyalty by the FibDems.
And Mattey was similarly outspoken when he found his new political pals in the Greens siding with the FibDems elsewhere in south London, in Richmond.Mattey’s protests brought sharp threats over his conduct from Lucas. Mattey – who continues to sit on Sutton Council as an independent – responded by resigning his relatively new Green Party membership.
Mattey has since been at pains to stress that he only shredded his membership card, and certainly did not burn it.
Mattey’s outrage at the chumminess between waste-burning FibDems and his erstwhile Green colleagues may also explain why a high-profile visit from a party leader to the site of the Beddington incinerator was cancelled recently.
Jon Bartley, Lucas’s co-leader, had planned a trip to Sutton to draw attention to the rapidly developing industrial incineration site at Beddington Lane, with all the attendant potential embarrassment for the FibDems and Viridor.
But Bartley, a Streatham resident who for 16 years was a member of the Conservative Party, cancelled his Beddington visit… shortly after sharing a platform with Tom Brake, the Carshalton and Wallington MP.
Last week, Mattey announced his candidancy at the General Election, standing as an independent against incinerator-supporting Brake. Mattey’s election agent, the person who will manage the campaign, has been named as Paul Pickering. Pickering is another leading figure in the long-running anti-incinerator campaign.
The Greens are not expected to announce any of their candidates for Croydon and Sutton’s seats in the General Election until after this weekend’s bank holiday.
Such inherent complications in cross-party co-operation seems likely to rule out any possibility of a “progressive alliance” in Croydon’s parliamentary seats, though had one been in force between Labour and the Greens in 2015, Tory Gavin Barwell might have lost his seat: well-known local figure Esther Sutton polled 1,400 votes for the Greens in a seat where Labour’s Sarah Jones was 165 votes shy of victory.
There remains the possibility of other, less-well-publicised, political alliances, though.
UKIP has been unusually silent on its election intentions in Croydon. After the party’s less-than-vigorous campaigning in 2015, which proved vitally helpful to Barwell in Croydon Central, there’s a strong possibility of another under-the-counter Blukip arrangement, this time caused through candidate apathy and lack of cash. After all, with Arron Banks no longer funding the Little Englanders, and with UKIP leadership figures Nigel Farage nor Paul Nuttall prepared to stand themselves, why would anyone else bother?
Standing in the wings hoping that #SuttonBinShame might help him overturn Brake’s slim 1,510-vote majority in Carshalton and Wallington will be Matthew Joseph Constable Maxwell-Scott, the heir presumptive to a baronetcy, who was last night named as the Conservative candidate, repeating his role from 2015.
Another prominent figure from the 2015 General Election has decided not to stand again, at least not in the same constituency.
Emily Brothers, Labour’s previous candidate for Sutton and Cheam, announced today that she will not contest the forthcoming General Election in the same constituency. Brothers was Labour’s first trans parliamentary candidate, standing in a seat which the FibDems lost to the Tory, Paul Scully, while she increased her party’s share of the vote by 4.2 per cent.Her intervention outside St Helier Hospital, interrupting a stage-managed FibDem visit by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was one of the highlights of the campaign; the orange-clad Brake and Paul Burstow supporters’ bullying approach to Brothers, who is blind and hard of hearing, betrayed any “progressive” reputation they might have, and they quickly saw their event end in disarray, with Clegg scurrying off to his official car.
“I am proud of what we achieved in 2015 in taking Labour’s message to local people and engaging with them,” Brothers said today. “I think it is now time for someone else to pick up the challenge, to represent our policies on local concerns and issues for local people.”
According to a senior official within the Sutton Labour parties, they have received as many as three applications from members who want to be candidates in one or other of the constituencies. These are understood to include Candida Jones, a councillor in Wandsworth (there are no Labour councillors in Sutton) and Bonnie Craven, the secretary of the CLP and an activist in Momentum, the Jeremy Corbyn support group.
In common with other constituencies, Labour’s National Executive Committee will select its candidate in the coming week.
From the archive:
- Tom Brake link to £275,000 church donation from incinerator company
- Secretive incinerator scheme is a bad deal, say Sutton Tories
- Sutton official tried to influence vote at incinerator meeting
- Infant death rates on the rise where incinerators operate
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