WALTER CRONXITE has drilled down into the election numbers (well, Electoral Calculus has), and come up with some worrying figures for Croydon Tories
It wasn’t only Gavin Barwell who got his P45 from his Westminster job last week.And while the career politician was able to wander straight into another very well-paid role on Saturday (though one for which he was no better qualified and with probably worse job security), the faithful Tory lapdogs and Croydon councillors who worked in his parliamentary and constituency office will this week be visiting Job Centre Plus.
As they mull over their tax-payer funded redundancy packages, Jason Cummings and Sara Bashford, deputy leaders of the Conservative group at the Town Hall, will struggle to take any crumbs of comfort from last week’s election defeat in Croydon Central.
The ward-by-ward figures from across the borough suggest that at next year’s local elections, if held on existing ward boundaries (and we know that won’t be the case), Labour could retain control of the Town Hall, with much the same 40-30 majority as at present. Which all makes Croydon Labour leader’s Tony Newman’s gamble of seeking a boundary review begin to look as ill-considered as Theresa Mayhem’s decision to call the snap General Election.
According to Electoral Calculus, last week Labour won in Addiscombe and Ashburton wards in Croydon Central, though not in Fairfield. As you might expect, in the Labour-held Croydon North constituency, the Tories never came close in any of its wards, while in Waddon, the only Labour-held council ward in Croydon South, Electoral Calculus had the vote as 5,107 (55.1 per cent) Labour to 3,498 (37.8 per cent) Tory. In neighbouring Croham ward, Tory parliamentary candidate Chris Philp had a winning margin of 8 per cent.Having invoked the review by the Boundary Commissioners, though, the whirlwind Newman is about to reap could be a set of new, Tory-friendly boundaries which might see Conservative candidates ushered in to the Town Hall in 2018 from the redrawn Addiscombe, Park Hill and the Whitgift Estate wards.
That vote in Waddon reflects very closely the percentages across the whole of London, where the “Corbyn Effect” saw Labour secure 54.5 per cent of the vote – 5 per cent higher than in the Blair landslide of 1997. This surely must mark a high-water mark for Labour in London.
Against those sort of figures in London – for the second year running, following Sadiq Khan’s 56.8 per cent of the London Mayoral vote in 2016 – Conservatives in the capital will be very worried.
“The hard truth is that if the national tide is against your party it doesn’t matter how good a job you have done,” one Tory with previously hidden depths of sagacity wrote last year.
“And sooner or later, the national tide will be against your party… One day, however hard you work, you’re going to lose.”
That, of course, was from How To Turn A Safe Tory Seat Into A Marginal by gaffe-prone Gavin himself, the election playbook which was quickly used against him in Croydon Central by Labour’s Sarah Jones and the masses of supporters from Momentum who helped to carry her to a 5,600-vote victory.
Because whatever way the Prime Minister’s new chief of stuff-ups tries to spin it, Barwell undoubtedly left Croydon Central in a worse state for the Conservatives than he found it.
Croydon Central was the 198th safest Tory seat in the country in 2005. By 2015, Barwell had already degraded the seat to the 337th safest Tory seat.
Last week, Labour won Croydon Central for the first time when the party is in opposition. It now ranks as only the 365th best seat for the Tories.
The last time the Tories won more than 364 seats at a General Election was in 1987. A Tory gain in Croydon Central now looks like only a once-in-a-generation occurence after Barwell’s tenancy. Any politically ambitious young Croydon Tories, like Barwell’s former staffer, Mario Creatura, could face a 30-year wait. Not a great legacy for Barwell to leave to his local party.
In 2015, when well-prepared, the Tories in Croydon held on to the seat by a 165-vote margin after throwing significant campaign resources at it, including the controversial election bus trip, visits from minister after minister, and even Craig McKinley (who has recently been charged by the police over his accounting conduct in his own campaign that year).
In 2017, they relied on campaign visits from older, and very white, Conservatives from Beckenham. And Michael Gove. Is it any wonder that Barwell had publicly conceded defeat by 11pm on election night, when the count had hardly started?Barwell’s Tories were overwhelmed in the Labour tsunami that overtook Greater London on Thursday.
Having failed to save his seat, Barwell now has a Prime Minister to save. He may have spent this morning explaining to Mayhem what a Mexican Wave is supposed to look like.
May’s ill-at-ease demeanour in the Stade de France last night reflected the out-of-touch nature of her party’s election campaign.
Organisational failures that the local Tory campaign encountered are of more concern for 2018 than in explaining last week’s local loss. The local Labour organisation, by contrast, coped efficiently with never-ending waves of willing, and younger, helpers.
The 2017 General Election in Croydon Central threw up another mystery worthy of Agatha Christie: why do the local LibDems bother selecting Jean Hickson as their election candidate at all?
Having fared dismally when standing in Croydon South in 2015, Hickson weaved her own peculiar “magic” again this time round in Croydon Central, losing her £500 deposit after reducing further her party’s share of the vote – even though the previous candidate had barely bothered to campaign in the constituency in 2015.Perhaps had Hickson spent more time during the campaign in Croydon, rather than in Carshalton or Bermondsey, she might have persuaded many more than a thousand people to vote Liberal Democrat. Certainly, in Hickson’s absence this time round from Croydon South, her party managed to hold on to its deposit there with a better candidate.
Like Hickson, UKIP’s Peter Staveley seemed to think that not running a campaign was better than running one in Croydon Central. Such as it was, all his party’s activity seemed to be around New Addington. He got similar results to Hickson, too.
Overall, the swing against Barwell was less extreme than the Greater London swing against his party. In fact, Labour had bigger swings in their favour in Croydon North and, most suprisingly, in Croydon South. Sarah Jones got a 9.6 per cent swing in her favour in Croydon Central. Jennifer Brathwaite, who barely bothered to travel from Lambeth and only just about learned how to spell “Coulsdon” properly by the end of the campaign, somehow achieved a 11 per cent swing in her favour. The quiet campaign secured the highest ever vote for Labour in the seat and its East Surrey predecessor.
Was The Hon Emily Benn, Labour’s 2015 candidate, really that unpopular? Or should Chris Philp, with his majority reduced to a “mere” 11,000 votes, have any cause for concern?
That Brathwaite’s close-to-non-existent campaign should do better than one next door with in Central with its busy campaigning would seem to suggest that in London it was just one Croydon resident who made the greatest difference, Andrew Fisher, with his election-changing Labour manifesto. His work even appealed south of the border, where Labour came second in Surrey East for the first time since 1955.
Philp’s Croydon South seat is now the Tory’s 223rd safest, still well out of Labour’s reach with Electoral Calculus. Philp won by large margins in all the Croydon South wards except Waddon and Croham.
In Croydon North/Lambeth South (delete to taste), Steve Reed OBE came close to attracting three of every four votes cast, with the seat being among the 33 Labour seats that saw an increase in the majority of more than 10,000. Reed’s seat is now the 27th safest Labour seat, ranking alongside inner London seats like West Ham for Labour vote share with 74.15 per cent. Reed’s vote share is even higher than Chukka Umunna’s in Streatham – the seat that Reed had always wanted to represent.
The only consolation for the Tories is that their own vote share in Croydon North is higher than at the 2012 Croydon North by-election. That was helped by the failure of any minor Croydon North party to save their deposit this year. The Tories will just have to go through the motions in the north of the borough in the local elections next year.
A year after the Brexit Referendum, and UKIP got fewer than 3,000 votes across the whole of Croydon, while making a generous £1,500 donation to civic funds by way of three lost deposits. They, the Greens and the LibDems are left with no credibility whatsoever to be challengers for next year’s Croydon local elections, though UKIP’s demise may assist the Tories.Over in Sutton, Tom Brake held on to his Carshalton and Wallington seat. His vote share was up 6.15 per cent, his majority over the Tories down by just a couple of hundred from 2015.
Capping the Labour vote increase at 3.43 per cent will have helped Brake, the FibDem incineration fan. You have to admire Brake’s ability to borrow votes from other parties in the name of tactical voting.
Given how well the Tories polled in neighbouring Sutton and Cheam, where Paul Scully was re-elected, it may be time for the Conservatives to look for a candidate with stronger connections to Wallington than to an ancient baronetcy. UKIP’s decision not to run a candidate in order to hurt Remainer Brake had no effect.
Scully now represents a seat that is the Tories’ 128th safest. The LibDem vote has collapsed so badly that this seat may now return to its 1960s mould of being a Tory seat being chased by Labour, rather than the Liberals. Labour are now just 6 per cent behind the LibDems there.
With a good, locally based candidate, Labour secured their highest vote in the Sutton and Cheam seat since 1966, with their vote up 9.4 per cent.
Sutton Council’s Liberals will need to brush up on their leafleting skills if they are not to encounter significant losses in next year’s local elections on the western side of the borough, mainly to the Tories and perhaps even to Labour in the Sutton Central ward.
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