Just when you thought it was safe to go out on to the streets without risk of being button-holed by political activists, WALTER CRONXITE reports that preparations are already being made for the next round of elections
Weekend reports that the “brains trust” at No10 Downing Street – which would include former Croydon MP Gavin Barwell – were preparing for a snap General Election (another one) this autumn will have done nothing for the voting fatigue clearly evident in so many Croydon residents this month.
After local elections earlier this month, and following last year’s General Election, the referendum on the European Union, the London-wide Assembly and Mayoral ballots, the European parliament elections staged with the 2014 local elections, and the 2015 General Election, the Croydon electorate will have been asked to cast their votes nine times in less than five years.
A 10th public vote staged before 2019 might only be welcomed by professional politicians, who like nothing better than spending their time delivering countless leaflets to increasingly disinterested residents, or by the council chief executive, who manages to stuff a five-figure bonus payment into her bank account each time she is called upon to be Croydon’s returning officer.
But if Prime Minister Theresa May and her “trusted advisor”, chief of staff Barwell, don’t go to the country in October in a last-ditch effort to resolve the Conservative Party’s continuing internal difficulties over Europe, then the next scheduled election in Croydon is not until May 7, 2020, when the borough’s residents will have the chance to vote for a new representative at the London Assembly.
Some may see this as one of the first benefits of Brexit: otherwise Croydon residents will have been trudging off to the polling stations again in 2019 for the latest European elections.
This month’s local elections offered mixed prospects for the borough’s political duopoly in 2020, when there will again be three votes: for the Mayor, for the Croydon and Sutton Assembly member, and a London-wide party vote.
The Survation poll conducted on the day of the Town Hall elections on May 3 saw strong polling for Labour’s London Mayor, with 50 per cent of voters seeing Sadiq Khan as doing a good job and only 21 per cent thinking that he is doing a bad job.
A net approval rating of 29 per cent in Croydon betters the London-wide net approval rating that YouGov/Queen Mary University London measured for Khan on May 1. Even Conservative voters in the Croydon poll gave Khan the benefit of the doubt by 8 per cent.
That’s encouraging for Labour in Croydon if Khan runs, though there is gossip that the Mayor hankers after a return to the House of Commons to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the party leadership, and that his appointment of the former Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander to be deputy mayor for transport is to line her up to be the 2020 Labour Mayoral candidate.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, can take some encouragement for the 2020 London Assembly elections.
The total number of votes Croydon and Sutton 2018
Conservatives 171,270 – 39.6%
Labour 144,567 – 33.5%
Liberal Democrats 82,894 – 19.2%
Greens 23,339 – 5.4%
Others 10,018 – 2.3 %
Since the first London Assembly election in 2000, the Croydon and Sutton seat has always been held by the Tories. In Sutton this month, the Conservatives doubled their number of councillors to 18. Gains were made in the west of the borough, in the Sutton and Cheam parliamentary seat where MP Paul Scully has turned what was until 2015 a LibDem stronghold into the 123rd safest Conservative seat in the country.
When it comes to the London elections, the Tories are on the look-out for a new candidate to replace “Silent” Steve O’Connell, the Crystal Palace fan and Kenley councillor who has collected the generous City Hall stipend since 2008, but who has decided to stand down before the 2020 elections.
In the whole borough of Croydon, Labour has out-polled the Tories at all but one election since 2012. But it is Labour’s weakness in Sutton – where once again the party failed to win any council seats at this month’s local elections – which hampers their chances of winning in this Assembly seat for the first time.
Across Sutton and Croydon, Labour has not made any progress in this seat since Louisa Woodley enjoyed a 8.95 per cent swing to Labour in 2012, when the vote shares were Conservative 39.1 per cent Labour 32.9 per cent.
In 2016, Labour’s Marina Ahmad secured a similar result, losing 38.6 per cent to 32.2 per cent.
Whoever gets chosen as O’Connell’s Tory replacement will take encouragement from the local council party vote shares across Croydon and Sutton that look very much unchanged over the last six years.
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