KEN LEE, our political reporter for the south of the borough, has been on the election trail in ‘Coulsden’
Labour has found an election winner in true-blue Croydon South.
Only trouble is, it isn’t the rarely seen candidate who has been parachuted into the constituency by Blairites at the party’s headquarters.
The Oasis academy in Coulsdon invited all the General Election candidates to a hustings attended by around 100 pupils this week, just ahead of half-term. Chris Philp, the Conservative candidate defending a humongous majority on June 8, turned up, as did Catherine Shelley, from the Greens.
She may have thought that participating in a community event in a large school in the constituency talking to the voters of the future was a waste of her valuable time.
Not that Brathwaite has been spending much of her valuable time campaigning in the constituency which she agreed to contest.
In the place of the absentee candidate, Labour put up Charlie King, a Coulsdon resident, former chair of the local Labour Party, long-time campaigner for rail commuters, and an all-round good bloke who is widely respected. “We probably would have been better off if we had had Charlie as the candidate proper,” one demoralised Labour activist from the leafy south of the borough grumbled this week.
And at the school hustings, King was the winner, “overturning” Philp’s vast majority with more than one-third of the pupils’ vote. Second, by a single vote, was Shelley, with Philp trailing in third among the youth non-voters of Coulsdon.
The candidates from the FibDems and UKIP didn’t bother to show up at all. The proxy sent to represent the LibDems would have lost their deposit, had there been one.
Brathwaite showed what passes for gratitude the following day with a tweeted picture of King, accompanied by a message about the party’s policy on pensions. Perhaps she thinks King needs pensioning off?
Brathwaite is a leading councillor from Blairite-dominated Lambeth, where she is the cabinet member for housing and is well-known, if not notorious, among the residents of Central Hill Estate – largely because of her role in getting the social housing there bulldozed, in another scheme accused of being a form of social cleansing.
This weekend, with General Election day less than two weeks away, she has shown some signs that she is actually involved in the campaign process in Croydon South.
Over the weekend, she has gone to the trouble, in her clearly very busy schedule, of spending about one whole minute to update her Twitter profile to reflect the fact that she is actually standing in the General Election.
Yesterday, she even had a stall on the high street in Coulsdon, or what she prefers to call “Coulsden“.
“It was good to see so much support for Labour in Coulsden today,” she tweeted, alongside a picture of herself with a single member of the public, a Labour supporter.
It all seems a little half-hearted and half-baked, of someone going through the motions, possibly in the hope that next time round she might be handed a chance in a safe Labour seat, or maybe so that the Labour hierarchy can add her demographics to its statistics to show how diverse the party’s candidates have been.
Whatever the reasons for Brathwaite or the party doing this, the non-Tory voters of Croydon South have been ill-served (again) in an active demonstration of the democratic deficit under the first-past-the-post system.
Brathwaite’s challenge on June 8 will be to better the number of votes achieved in the same constituency two years ago by The Hon Emily Benn.
Whether being so disengaged that you don’t bother turning up for an event at a large neighbourhood school, or can’t be arsed to spell correctly the name of one of the towns in the constituency will be to her advantage, we will discover on June 9.
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