Our political editor WALTER CRONXITE reveals the Conservative shortlist for the candidate to stand in next year’s London Assembly elections in Croydon and Sutton
The local Tory Party, which has held the Sutton and Croydon constituency at the London Assembly since it was formed in 2000, has opted for a shortlist of four losers following a selection panel meeting last night.
“Silent” Steve O’Connell, the Assembly Member for Sutton and Croydon, has announced that he will not stand for re-election at the City Hall elections in May 2020, having established a legacy of… well, not much at all.
And with Shaun Bailey as the Conservatives’ underwhelming choice as candidate to challenge Sadiq Khan to become London Mayor, the unmistakable sound of barrels having their bottoms scraped could be heard from Wallington to Purley on Sunday night, as the local Tories pitched around to find a suitably male, stale and, mainly, pale replacement for O’Connell.
The less-than-dynamic foursome shortlisted are Simon Hoar, Joseph Lee, Stephen Carr and Neil Garratt. All have a record of losing, in most cases elections, in one case his job, but not just for the Tories. One of them has been an election loser when wearing LibDem orange as well as Conservative blue.
Notably, no women made it on to the Tory shortlist.
Hoar and Garratt are both currently sitting councillors, Hoar for Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward in Croydon, Garratt for Belmont in Sutton, though both are “retreads”, having managed to lose seats at previous local elections, only getting back on board the council gravy train when a suitable safe ward vacancy became available.
“Cheap” Hoar’s track record of having lost Waddon ward to Labour in 2014, and of enthusiastically leafleting on behalf of incinerator operators Viridor, could make him a real electoral liability for the Tories, especially in Sutton where their party policy has been to oppose the Beddington incinerator.
Carr is the former leader of Bromley Council, but he is currently without elected office, having not stood in 2018.
He quit as Bromley leader in 2017 over the council’s continued failings over its children’s services department. Carr is not, however, without “influence” in high Tory circles: his partner is the ex-Croydon council cabinet member, Sara “Book Token” Bashford, the former constituency aide to gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell.
The desperately thrusting Joseph Lee is an estate agent by profession. Having lost an election when a parliamentary candidate for the LibDems, last May Lee showed in Addiscombe East that he was perfectly capable of losing for the Tories, too, when standing in the local elections in Croydon.
“Father Jack” Garratt is Sutton Tories’ candidate for selection to stand for the London Assembly, and has the backing of Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Scully.
Until last May, Garratt – who has a sometimes interesting approach to social media – was the deputy leader of the opposition group on Sutton Council. But he somewhat carelessly managed to lose his seat. Then last August, as if by magic, one of his Tory colleagues unexpectedly decided to quit their seat, and Garratt moved in like quicksilver to seize the opportune Belmont by-election.
The prize for the chosen candidate could be the £56,000 per year position at City Hall, where frankly it shouldn’t be too difficult to be an improvement on O’Connell.
The selection meeting to decide who gets the plum task is to be held in the Grand Sapphire Hotel, off the Purley Way, next month. Which puts the Tories some way ahead of Labour in at least one respect: their candidate selection process.
Opinions are still divided over whether Sutton and Croydon can be won by Labour for the first time in 2020, or indeed whether Labour’s London region even wants to try at all to win the constituency, given the impact that it might have upon the party’s candidates on the London-wide list system.
With Croydon having been majority Labour at previous London elections in 2012, much will depend in May 2020 on how many Sutton LibDems vote tactically against the Conservatives.
Given the frankly lacklustre nature of the Tory shortlist for their candidate, that surely cannot be too difficult.
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