Tirena Gunter was selected last night by Croydon Conservatives as their candidate in the Norbury and Pollards Hill by-election being held on March 14.
The by-election has been called following the death last month of long-standing Labour councillor Maggie Mansell.
Gunter, who lives in Norbury, is the Tories’ go-to candidate for elections in the north of the borough. This will be her seventh time as a candidate, having lost on the previous six occasions.
Two of Gunter’s previous campaigns have been in Norbury, in 2006 and 2014. She stood in South Norwood in last year’s Town Hall elections, in Selhurst in its by-election in 2015, and before that she had been a candidate in Upper Norwood in 2002 and 2010.
The last time Gunter contested Norbury ward, five years ago, she polled 1,045 votes, 25 per cent of the vote, making her the leading Conservative candidate, but still with less than half of the number votes for the Labour candidates who were elected, including the late Maggie Mansell.
It has been suggested by sources close to Croydon Tories that Gunter may have been selected this time from a very short shortlist, of one.
The Tories refused to reveal who was on their selection shortlist before last night’s meeting. Our mole outside their semi-detached HQ in suburban Purley suggests this was to do with an embarrassment over a lack of available candidates. There were concerns that with so few members of the Conservative Party in the north of the borough, they might even have struggled to ensure that the selection meeting was quorate.
Gunter, according to Croydon Tories’ leader Tim Pollard this morning, is “passionate about over-development, crime and cleaning up the fly-tipping which blights the area”, though local residents’ groups suggest that Gunter has never been seen at any of their litter picks or other community action events.
Whoever Labour selects tonight for Norbury and Pollards Hill is expected to be elected to the council with an overwhelming majority.
But it is not only the Tories who are struggling to scrape together a viable candidate.
UKIP representatives were out and about in the ward last weekend desperately trying to find residents willing to put their names on the formal candidate nomination forms to go to the council before tomorrow’s deadline. Candidates’ forms need the backing of at least 10 nominees from the area.
UKIP has long been riven by divisions in Croydon, but recently the splits have seen splinter “constitutional” groups set up following the resignations of officials angered by the close association of Gerard Batten, UKIP’s Islamophobic leader, with racist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (sometimes known as Tommy Robinson).
At last year’s local elections in Croydon, UKIP did not manage to muster a single candidate for Norbury and Pollards Hill’s two-councillor ward. The Liberal Democrats – a party which, remember, had a share of government in this country during this decade – also failed to have a candidate in the ward in 2018.
For either party, therefore, even if they manage to put up a candidate this time, it will be hard for them while out canvassing to convince voters that having their name on the ballot paper is anything more than a token gesture, rather than any real concern for the needs and interests of the residents.
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