Some of the spin being put on the outcome of the local elections would make Comical Ali blush with shame, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
In the week since the local elections, both political parties have been making inflated claims of success. Croydon’s Tories comically so.
Boundary changes gave Labour an additional four-seat headstart, but they lost one of those in an unexpected defeat in Addiscombe East to Jeet “Lucky” Bains.The boundary changes still allow Labour leader Tony Newman to claim that Labour has its biggest ever number of councillors in Croydon Town Hall, 41, up one from 2014.
Psephologists use many different ways to calculate election results at local elections, where the counts are complicated by a variety of multi-member wards of different sizes with full and partial party slates. This leaves many ways to cut up the cake to analyse the results.
Britain Elects, for example, uses top candidate by party scores. Inside Croydon, except for raw, borough-wide vote shares, uses the old London Research Centre, now GLA Datastore methodology for consistency, with their results going back to 1964.
That methodology suggests that, on May 3, there was only the very tiniest of swings from Labour to the Tories of 0.05 per cent, compared to the previous local elections in 2014. That number is statistically insignificant, but that did not stop the Conservatives mass mailing their supporters last week to celebrate.
In their email, Tim Pollard’s Croydon Tories talk of “considerable progress”.
“In 2014, Croydon Labour’s share of the popular vote put them ahead of the Conservatives by 2.6 per cent. In 2018 Labour’s lead slipped to 2.5 per cent.” Get the bunting out, chaps!
“It’s difficult to underestimate how significant this is.” Actually, no, it’s not.
At that snail’s pace of progress, Tim Pollard can expect to lead Croydon Conservatives to a Town Hall election triumph in… 2118, 100 years away.
For Newman’s Croydon Labour group, the failure to take advantage of the wave of Corbynmania which saw a 5 per cent swing to his party in the rest of London might be attributed to a failure to get the vote out – in some wards, such as Fairfield, which was Labour’s boundary-change-assisted gain from the Tories, only a lacklustre 30 per cent of electors bothered to cast a vote.
Labour’s disappointing result in the Croydon council election does not look so bad when seen in the context of other results in south London. Lambeth saw four seats lost to the Greens. Greenwich saw one seat switch from Labour to the Conservatives. Merton, despite growing discontent with the state of the streets with #MuckyMerton and the demolition of Merton Hall, saw Labour lose two seats to the LibDems.
The Conservatives are pleased to have made a first small step forward in the Croydon Central constituency which Gavin Barwell lost at the General Election last year to Labour’s Sarah Jones. Barwell’s losing margin of 9.9 per cent has tightened to 6.1 per cent in this month’s locals. This calculation assumes an equality of turnout and vote share across wards that go across parliamentary boundaries.
Croydon Tories, in their email, emphasised that what they saw as their superior campaign pegged back Labour’s hopes to gain seats.
“Croydon Labour believed they would easily win 45 councillors,” they said. “As a result, they didn’t bother publishing their full list of candidates until the day they were legally required to in April.”
Which is not the real reason. The true reason Labour delayed naming all their candidates was that their selection process was such a shambles that they didn’t actually know who many of their (largely “paper”, lip-service candidates in what they deemed to be unwinnable wards) candidates would actually be until just a couple of days before the deadline.
Undaunted, Pollard’s email to Tory members in the borough said, “We Conservatives announced most of ours last autumn, with the complete list out in early 2018.” Apart from the wards in the north of the borough that they forgot about…
And the triumphalist Tory email continued: “Labour’s full manifesto was published with less than a fortnight to go until the election. Conservative pledges were issued allowing months for residents to peruse them, formulated after listening to thousands of residents.”
But still they lost.
Too much negative campaigning on council failures under Labour did not help their cause. They were still at it last week, with Newman underlining Tory negativity in their criticism of a new youth centre, where work began for the £6.5million “youth zone” on Boulogne Road.
“Quite extraordinary that a number of Croydon Tories have spoken against this wonderful project,” Newman said at the ground-breaking ceremony. “I guess that’s what happens when you believe your own hype that an all-time low of 29 Tory councillors is apparently some kind of success.”
Though, not for the first time, Newman was twisting the facts to suit his own version of events. The truth is that 29 is not the all-time low for Croydon’s Tories: that was 21 in 1964, when power was shared with ratepayer groups.
But it does seem odd for the Tories to celebrate a campaign that was negative in tone, anti-development and offering no credible solution to Croydon’s housing crisis.
In the end, for the six weeks – or more – leading up to the local elections, the borough’s 70 elected councillors carried out little or no Town Hall business, allowing Jo Negrini and her top team of highly paid executives to run the council’s affairs as they see fit, without the any pesky interference from those supposed to represent the people’s interests.
At least £160,000 of council money was paid to the councillors over this period in council allowances, making them some of the most highly paid leaflet-deliverers in the northern hemisphere…
And yet for all the doors knocked and leaflets hand-delivered, we ended up with the no-real-change result. Neither Tory, nor Labour, campaigns delivered that outcome. The Local Government Boundary Commissioners, with their re-jigged map of the borough’s new 28 wards, did.
Over-optimistic emails to party supporters cannot mask that stark reality.
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