Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, has obtained a copy of a Croydon Conservatives internal document which shows their north-south divide of the borough when it comes to picking candidates for next year’s council elections
Whoever Croydon Conservatives select to contest next month’s council by-election in South Norwood, the candidate will be burdened with the knowledge that their own party regards them as second-rate, distinctly “B list”.
Inside Croydon has obtained a confidential document from Croydon Tories’ Purley HQ which reveals how, within their own organisation, they maintain a north-south divide within the borough.
The local Tories, organising their candidate selection process ahead of next year’s Town Hall elections, have split up the borough’s newly mapped wards into an A list and a B list, with only a fortunate few Conservative members having a chance of being picked to stand in winnable, Tory wards, found mostly to the south of the borough.
The Tories’ twin-track approach to selections betrays how they really feel about large swathes of one of the country’s most diverse boroughs, and is likely will be reflected the calibre of candidates which they will put forward in wards to the north of the borough, in areas such as South Norwood.
The Conservatives, like the local Labour Party, are having to rush through their selection process to find 70 candidates for next year’s local elections now that the revised ward boundaries have been set (belatedly) by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.
People considering putting themselves forward to be Conservative candidates on May 3 next year are discovering that they have to operate in a two-tier system, which divides Croydon’s Tory sheep from the political goats.
The approach is understood to have been “masterminded” by the local party’s leadership, Tim “Dull” Pollard, and his deputies Sara “Book Token” Bashford and Jason Cummings, possibly with some input from Mario Creatura. The latter three all spent time on the state-funded pay-roll of now former MP, Gavin Barwell, the author of How To Turn A Tory Seat Into a Marginal, And Then Lose It.
And we know how well that turned out…
In the past couple of weeks, members of Croydon Conservatives who have been passed as suitable to stand as Tory candidates in next May’s local elections have received a document which states:
All applicants approved by the Borough Selection Committee will be allocated a range of seats they may apply for.
The two categories will be:
a. All seats
b. Marginal and Non-target seats only
In order to be granted an All Seats status candidates are expected to be active across a full range of political activity including campaigning, fund-raising, media, meetings and party organisation.
The Tories operate a system whereby candidates can say which wards they would like to stand in. Those whom Croydon Tory High Command deem unfit to be on the A list therefore face the tough prospect of trying to win their place on the council in wards which are either not regarded as election targets, or are only “marginal”.
Pollard’s brains trust’s list of new wards on the redrawn political map of Croydon might also be interpreted as indicating that the Tories don’t rate their chances of regaining control of the Town Hall in 2018. Of Croydon’s 70 ward seats, the Tories reckon 42 of them are “marginal or non-target”. On that basic arithmetic, it is almost as if the Tories are already expecting to win fewer council seats next May than the 30 they won in 2014.
Among those areas included on the Tories’ B list are the re-configured Addiscombe wards, which were the battleground which decided the outcome of the 2014 local elections. The revised New Addington wards, which until 2014 had a Conservative councillor, are now regarded as “marginal”.
Even Fairfield ward, in the town centre, currently held by three Conservative councillors, including senior figure Vidhi Mohan and Pollard’s wife, Helen Pollard, has been downgraded to “Marginal and Non-target seats only” status following the boundary review. And Waddon ward, in the true blue Croydon South parliamentary constituency, which was held by the Tories only three years ago, now seems to be regarded as a lost cause for the Conservatives.
The Tory B list seats are:
- Bensham Manor
- Broad Green
- Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood
- Norbury and Pollards Hill
- Norbury Park
- South Norwood
- Thornton Heath
- West Thornton
- Addiscombe East
- Addiscombe West
- New Addington North
- New Addington South
The Conservatives’ A list of wards can yield only 28 seats in the Town Hall:
- Coulsdon Town
- Old Coulsdon
- Park Hill and Whitgift
- Purley and Woodcote
- Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown
- Selsdon and Addington Village
- Selsdon Vale and Forestdale
- Shirley North
- Shirley South
- South Croydon
This “strategy”, such as it is, has obvious flaws. It suggests that the Tories may field what they perceive to be weaker candidates in Labour-held marginal wards, exactly the kind of places where the Conservatives need to win to recapture control of the council.
It also demonstrates the Conservatives’ disregard for large areas of the borough, as places which offer them no political advantages.
This is nothing new, of course. Mario Creatura, the Exchange Square resident who was handed a plum (ie. ultra-safe) Coulsdon ward seat before the last local elections, when he was still an employee of Barwell, publicly admitted that the wards to the north of the borough don’t matter to the Tories because they have little prospect of winning there.
Under the old ward boundaries in 2014, Labour won 40 of the 70 seats available.
The new boundaries have more two-seat wards, and even a one-seat ward.
Although it seems that Labour are likely to hold on to control in 2018, it would only take three or four good ward campaigns in key seats for control of the Town Hall to change. Yet through the Tories’ own selection system, based on the A list and the B list, they may have reduced any chance of that significantly.
And Tim Pollard, Cummings and Bashford have also created the uncomfortable and embarrassing possibility for candidates in 16 of Croydon’s 28 wards.
Beginning with the South Norwood by-election over the next month (which is being fought on the pre-2017 boundaries, but which is clearly on the Tories’ B list), Conservative activists will face the possibility of doorstep conversations between now and next May when voters will be able to ask anyone wearing a blue rosette whether they are considered to be “A standard” by their own party.
Or whether they are a mere B lister.
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