KEN LEE, our political reporter, on the contrasting approaches of lost cause candidates in the borough’s two very safe seats
It may have taken Croydon Tories until yesterday to get round to naming their General Election candidate for Croydon North, but already Samuel Kasumu has shown a good deal more enthusiasm for the lost cause he is facing over the next month than the sacrificial Lambeth candidate Labour has selected for a similar role in Croydon South.
A 29-year-old entrepreneur from north London, Kasumu is taking on the 21,000 majority of Steve Reed OBE in Croydon North, where 63 per cent of votes cast in 2015 were for Labour. In Croydon South, Jennifer Brathwaite has been given the task by Labour of taking on Tory Chris Philp’s 17,000-vote majority.
Brathwaite, a councillor from Lambeth, was named as her party’s candidate almost a week ago. Since when there’s been near silence from her, except from one very poorly taken, virtual-signalling campaign photo at the weekend. It is almost as if Brathwaite really doesn’t fancy representing the opposition to the Conservatives in the Tory heartlands of Purley, Kenley and Coulsdon.
Brathwaite’s Twitter profile remains unchanged from last week, before she was named as a parliamentary candidate for the General Election on June 8. Croydon South remains unmentioned.
Nor has she updated her own blog to reflect her elevated status as an NEC-approved candidate, and there’s been barely any campaign activity in her new patch – with the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party officials preferring, instead, to drive to the south coast and campaign in Hove.
Kasumu, a self-declared “rebel”, meanwhile, has embraced his Croydon role with apparent enthusiasm, despite the pointlessness of his task. But he has already signalled that he will probably be spending as much time shoring up Gavin Barwell’s diversity credentials in Croydon Central as distributing leaflets for his own campaign when he tweeted, “I look forward to campaigning across the borough.”
Young candidates like Kasumu and Brathwaite are often given the near-thankless task of running a paper campaign in an unwinnable seats as a trial by their party, to see if they have what it takes later when a constituency with better prospects comes along.
Certainly, Kasumu, the founder of a youth employment charity, is making the right noises.
“It’s a great honour to have been selected to be the Conservative candidate for Croydon North,” Kasumu was supposed to have said yesterday. “For far too long the Labour Party has taken this community for granted, with the Member of Parliament and councillors neglecting their most basic of needs.
“The residents in the north of the borough deserve better than that, they deserve a change, that’s why if elected my priorities will be to focus on delivering more affordable housing, improving education outcomes for our children, helping local businesses to thrive and work to bring an end to knife crime in our communities.”
In fact, Kasumu is doing a major favour for Croydon Tories’ senior councillors, by saving them the embarrassment and hard work of running a futile campaign in Croydon North, where their apathy towards the north of the borough and their ignorance of it might be exposed, as it was with Fairfield councillor Vidhi Mohan when he was a feeble parliamentary candidate in 2015.
Just a year before the next Town Hall elections, Croydon Tories could do without the hassle of even pretending to campaign around Thornton Heath, Norbury and South Norwood.
And Kasumu’s “rebel” claim? In an interview a couple of years ago, he said, “I was expelled from nursery at a young age.” So watch out Croydon.
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