WALTER CRONXITE charts the latest unseemly developments in the ward by-election in South NorwoodCroydon Greens are proving themselves to be as good, or as bad, as other mainstream political parties – at being economical with the actualité.
The Greens’ South Norwood by-election candidate Peter Underwood has a pinned Twitter post that shows a voter support bar chart which suggests that his party is neck and neck with Labour as they head towards polling day on September 7.
This is more underhand than Underwood. The chart is something straight out of the sharp-elbowed Liberal Democrats’ devious election playbook – the sort of thing that earned them the deserved nickname of the FibDems.
The Greens’ graph purports to show a recent and local by-election outcome. But it’s not really recent, and it’s not all that local.
For this is a bar chart of a by-election not held in Croydon, but in another London borough and which took place 14 months ago, long before Labour’s Corbyn-inspired General Election surge.None of that is admitted to in the Greens’ tweet. You have to click on a link to a Croydon Green Party website to find any explanation of what the graph is based on. And a further lack of straightforwardness.
There, the 2016 Gipsy Hill by-election is mislabelled as “the most recent local council by-election”, which some might think implies that the election was for Croydon Council. Gipsy Hill ward is in Lambeth.
“If we can do it in Gipsy Hill, we can do it in South Norwood,” Underwood cheerfully asserts, blithely ignoring that the by-election in Lambeth was contested on a single issue – the Progress-dominated Labour council’s decision to close a library in Herne Hill and turn it into a “bookish gym”.
Things get a bit more realistic when you look at the latest Croydon election results. In May 2016, at the most recent council by-election staged in this borough, in West Thornton, the Greens came third, but with less than 10 per cent of the vote. West Thornton is in the same Croydon North parliamentary constituency as South Norwood.
In June this year, with the Corbyn surge at the General Election, Labour got 74.2 per cent of the vote in the Croydon North parliamentary seat. That day, the Greens got just 1.6 per cent of the vote. Their candidate in that election? Peter Underwood.
But the Greens’ bar chart for South Norwood doesn’t mention any of that.
Instead, the Greens claim that, in South Norwood ward, “In 2014 the Green Party candidates finished ahead of both the LibDems and UKIP.”
Even this is not entirely true.
In reality, at the local council elections three years ago they did beat the LibDems, but their three candidates in South Norwood polled fewer votes in total than UKIP. UKIP’s three candidates got 1,354 votes in 2014, the Greens 1,339. Two Green candidates did outdo the UKIP candidates, but their third candidate fared poorly.The Greens assert that, “It is becoming clear that the Green Party are the only ones who can overtake Labour and win in South Norwood.”
They fail to state to whom this is becoming clear to.
The Greens would require a massive swing of 21 per cent to beat Labour’s Patsy Cummings on polling day on September 7.
Underwood’s vain hope of victory appears to depend on the Tories’ decision to keep back their better candidates for safe Conservative-held wards. He is also highlighting his work with Croydon Conservation Volunteers and the growing discontent on housing estates in the ward over the Labour Council’s approach to planning issues.
For the Conservatives, South Norwood doesn’t appear to matter very much at all.
Ahead of next May’s borough-wide Town Hall elections, the Tories have begun a selection process to find 70 candidates and divided their applicants into A and B lists, with only A candidates allowed to apply to stand in Conservative-held seats. Croydon Greens say, “The Conservative Party are only putting up weaker candidates in North Croydon. They clearly don’t expect to win.”
On this, at least, the Greens appear to be correct.
That Tory error of judgement has not been helpful to their candidate, Thornton Heath resident Rebecca Natrajan, whose candidature has been kept low-profile by the Tories.
Underwood feels that South Norwood’s Labour councillors ignore residents’ needs, “I’ve seen how we’ve been treated by local politicians, being taken for granted and just ignored.”For him, “Too often we see so-called consultations where the concerns of residents are just brushed aside.” This seems a direct appeal for votes to the residents of Auckland Rise and Sylvan Hill, who bitterly resent the council’s planning approval for Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing developer, to build additional blocks in their estate.
Underwood knows many local politicians well through his job with the Croydon
Conservation Volunteers, an organisation which has enjoyed core funding from the council for the running of their volunteering work.
Underwood tells South Norwood residents that he will “make sure that your voice is heard”, though he doesn’t say how. Because even in the unlikely event that he were to be elected, in order to make the residents’ voices heard, he’d have to do so from outside the council chamber.
Who is allowed to speak at council meetings is strictly ruled over by the council leader, Tony Newman, and the opposition leader. There are Labour councillors on Newman’s back benches who have barely had their voices heard at all since 2014, never mind making the voices of their residents heard.UKIP, apparently, does have a candidate in the South Norwood by-election. The person selected is the local UKIP branch’s press officer. But he has failed to issue a press release to announce his candidature to the best-read media outlet based in the borough. This might explain the lonely figure he has cut in the videos he has self-recorded, as he wanders around South Norwood on his lonesome.
Having staged their selection meeting in a phone box in Old Coulsdon, the FibDems have used their Freedom Passes to get themselves to South Norwood. But they seem likely to struggle to hold on to the 5.8per cent share of the vote last time, when they came fifth. And last.
Labour’s Cummings, a former Corbyn staffer, will surely be disappointed if she does not improve her party’s winning share of 52.9 per cent of the South Norwood vote from 2014.
Perhaps Peter Underhand could draw a graph showing that?
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