WALTER CRONXITE on the very predictable outcome of yesterday’s council vote
And so, as no one ever doubted, it is now Councillor Patsy Cummings, following the by-election in the safe Labour ward of South Norwood yesterday.
That restores Labour’s tally at Croydon Town Hall to 39 councillors (with one banished permanently on the naughty step), to the Tories’ 30, though that will surely change next May, when the local elections determine the composition of the council for the next four years.
For the record (and hey, we’re not complaining, but why is Croydon Council under returning officer Jo Negrini incapable of posting a proper, verified election result on its website once it has the figures? It’s not much to ask, but democracy demands no less), Cummings polled 1,671 votes, or 59 per cent of the vote on a day of modest turn-out. Labour’s share of the vote was up 7.9 per cent on equivalent polling in the same ward in 2014.
The Conservative candidate, one of Croydon Tories’ “B-listers”, got 16.8 per cent (down 3.4 per cent). That was not the sort of result upon which the Tories can begin to plot for control of the Town Hall next May.
In fact, the FibDems were very close behind the Tories, on 13.7 per cent (up 6.7 per cent).
The Greens – the only party that can beat Labour, according to their own skewed graphics – dropped to fourth on 7.7 per cent (down 3.3 per cent).
And fewer than 100 people turned out to vote for UKIP.
The by-election had been called after Labour’s Kathy Bee took a politically restricted Civil Service job that prevents her from being a councillor.
Can anything be read into yesterday’s result ahead of next May’s Town Hall elections? Probably not.
Compared with the two other by-elections staged during this council term, in Selhurst and West Thornton, both similarly safe Labour wards in the north of the borough, the vote shares and the finishing orders are consistent.
The LibDems did noticeably better in South Norwood than they have been performing in this borough since 2010 (are people beginning to forget what Nick Clegg connived to do to the country with the Tories?), and UKIP are consigned to the rubbish bin of history as the irrelevance with a nasty streak that every sensible person always knew that they were.
Within Croydon’s Labour group, though, the election of Cummings may have greater significance.
All Labour’s candidates in the by-elections since 2015 have been of Afro-Caribbean heritage, Cummings the only woman of the three. That at least attempts to better reflect the diversity of the borough’s residents which – given the Tories’ stubborn refusal even to consider gender balance in their candidate selections for 2018 – can only make Croydon Conservatives look even more out of step with the communities that they claim to wish to serve.
In Cummings, too, the Labour group in Croydon is beginning to better reflect the mood of the vast majority of the party’s membership.
Cummings worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s office during this summer’s General Election, although last year she was ousted as chair of the Croydon North Constituency Labour Party by a candidate deemed to be more acceptable to Progress MP Steve Reed OBE.
Reed and his Blairite buddy on the council, Tony Newman, ensured that they were to the fore in canvassing selfies in the last days of a subdued “election campaign” in South Norwood. They posed together in Homelands Drive, apparently an irony-free zone so close to where the council wants to overdevelop Auckland Rise through the increasingly loathed Brick by Brick profiteering development company.
And last night Newman and two of his Gang of Four, Alison Butler and her husband, Paul Scott, turned up to make sure that they were in the Town Hall for the vote announcement, the council leader getting himself to the front of the picture, as if to take credit for the outcome. As a result, pushed into the background of the picture was another party member, Clive Fraser. As Cummings’ election agent, it had been Fraser who had done much of the work for the election, backed with the help of dozens of activists from Momentum.
The picture line-up was apt as a metaphor for Newman and his clique’s control-freak handling of the Labour group on the council, and the party in Croydon.
But after the mauling Newman has received in the past week in the London-wide media over the council’s children’s services crisis, it may be a mode of behaviour that they may not be able to continue to practice for much longer.
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