Guerilla leafleting has been carried out across three south London boroughs in protest against the councils’ leaderships, and in one case the police have been called in. Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports
Residents’ groups have been flyering their neighbourhoods to inform and influence voters ahead of the Town Hall elections tomorrow. In some cases, the political Establishment have called in the police to try to cover their worried arses and halt the flyering, while elsewhere some people delivering non-party political leaflets have been followed by Liberal Democrat activists.
In Croydon, a campaign of leaflets in the council leader’s own ward has called on residents not to vote for Tony Newman and the husband and wife couple who dominate the council’s planning process, Alison Butler and Paul Scott.The efforts seem unlikely to unseat Newman and Scott when the votes are tallied in the early hours of Friday morning – the pamphleteers have failed to suggest an alternative destination for the protest votes (though had they done so they may have fallen foul of election law). But the growing dissatisfaction with the approach of the Labour council’s house-builders Brick by Brick has been heard by canvassers on the doorsteps around the borough.
Croydon Labour candidates are increasingly aware that Scott, the frequently aggressive and bombastic chair of the council’s planning committee, may cost them votes, even from Labour supporters, when polling gets underway in the morning.
Guerilla leaflets featuring Stormzy, with a slogan which ridiculed the then Tory MP for Croydon Central, are reckoned to have played a significant part in undermining Gavin Barwell and seeing him lose his seat at last year’s General Election.
The leaflet went viral on social media, and because it was produced independently of any party campaign, was not subject to most of the restrictions of electoral law.
In Woodside this week, leaflets from the Brick by Brick Action Group have identified “family planning” as the issue on which to call on residents to deny their vote to Newman and Scott, two of the Labour councillors for the ward. Scott is married to Butler, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, who is standing in Bensham Manor ward.
Over unflattering pictures of the couple, there is a headline which states: “They have concrete plans to ruin your neighbourhood”. It calls on people to vote to make Croydon “Scott free”.
On the reverse of the leaflets is a copy-dense essay of the problems with Brick by Brick. The council, the leaflet states, is “… stuck in dogma to build and build regardless of the welfare of residents”.
And the leaflet concludes by stating: “Vote for whom you wish but not for Tony Newman, Paul Scott or Alison Butler”.
It is a message that resonates with residents, with one saying today that the poster has been put in their window instead of a Labour Party one.
“I have seen Paul Scott in action,” they said. “I have seen planning committee members pointed in the ‘required’ voting direction.
“Let’s end this.”
In next-door borough Sutton, thousands of Inside Sutton leaflets have been distributed in the past couple of weeks, a marketing leaflet for a spin-off of this website. The detailed reporting of the activities of the one-party-state council is something which has caused the ruling FibDems considerable consternation, particularly in certain key wards.
Such has been the perceived threat to LibDem rule in Sutton that they have had party activists out following leaflet deliverers and even filming them.
And in Merton, Labour Party agents called out the police to visit the home of an activist who they suggested was behind a leaflet critical of that council’s policies on rubbish collections and on the demolition of the historic Merton Hall.
With residents standing as independent candidates in Ravensbury ward, where the leader of the council, Stephen Alambritis, was elected on 26 per cent of the vote in 2014, it seems that the stakes are high for the ruling party.
“Merton Labour are claiming breach of 1983 Representation of the People Act,” one activist familiar with the independent campaign in that borough said today. “It’s not, as all in there is true. We reckon there is no breach of electoral commission rules as the leaflet isn’t promoting any specific candidate or party.
“I suspect that Labour are shocked at the mass of opinion against them. They thought it was just a couple of the ‘usual suspects’, which it is not.”
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