While the two major parties in Croydon try to behave as if there’s nothing going on, weekend polling ahead of Thursday’s European elections suggests that Labour and Tories are to lose seats in London.
Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports
With the Prime Minister’s departure from No10 due to be timetabled by Tory grandees in the first week of June, a touch of ermine over his shoulders surely cannot be far away for former Croydon MP Gavin Barwell.
But gaffe-prone Gav’s legacy to Croydon Conservatives is surely going to be more than a second branch of Nando’s in the town centre.
Because the impact of two disastrous years of his working on Theresa May’s Brexit “strategy” as the Prime Minister’s £150,000 per year chief of staff seems to be to put his party into fifth place in the European elections in London.
Some Croydon Tories have publicly vowed to vote for the Brexit Party in this Thursday’s European elections, while other local Conservatives have been keeping a studiously low-profile ahead of polling day, to avoid the risk being associated with the ineptitude of May, Barwell and his Croydon cronies in Downing Street.
Chris Philp, the Croydon South MP, bravely ventured out to a street stall in Purley on Saturday. But with polling day less than a week away, there was no sign of any mention of the Euro elections, the MP instead referring on social media to the London elections in 12 months’ time and his own campaign against building homes in his constituency.
The switchboard at No10 already regards Barwell as yesterday’s man. Last week, a national newspaper reported that a caller asking for Barwell by name had their call re-routed to Gary Barlow – an easy mistake to make.
Two recent opinion polls show that the Conservatives could suffer a 12.5 per cent drop in their London vote share from the 2014 European elections, with long-standing Tory MEP Charles Tannock losing his seat. Not that many passengers on the Clapham omnibus ever realised that Tannock was an MEP.
By the time the results are revealed this time next week, it seems very likely that just one London Conservative MEP, Syed Kamall, will make it back to the Strasbourg parliament.
With the Liberal Democrats vying with Labour and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party for top spot in London, averaging out the two opinion polls suggests it is quite possible that in Sutton the LibDems will get more than double the Tory vote, with that borough – where they voted to Leave in the 2016 Referendum – also putting the Brexit Party at double the Tory vote.
Belatedly, Croydon Labour has tried to do a bit of half-hearted European electioneering, staging its campaign launch a whole 13 days before polling day.
The opinion polls show a 12.5 per cent fall in support for Labour in London since 2014, with only the party’s strength in Croydon North likely just keep them in first place in the borough overall, ahead of the Brexit Party.
But in the Croydon South constituency, based on this polling, Labour could find themselves in fifth place on Thursday, behind the LibDems, Brexit, Tories and Greens (in that order).
It’s little wonder then that Waddon councillor Andrew Pelling has taken to tweeting his “bucolic” long country walks to campaigning sessions in Croydon South and Croydon Central, with photographs which show precisely zero electors being engaged with.
The Euro elections, of course, are done on a regional basis and in these enlightened times use proportional representation with a party list system. Given the latest polling figures, it looks like only the Labour London MEPs seeking re-election, Claude Moraes and Seb Dance, will be returned.
But Labour’s London seats at the European Parliament drop from the previous four held. Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment to the Labour list, who was once regarded as a shoo-in for election, will now add another loss to her political CV which already includes defeat in the North Ayrshire and Arran parliamentary seat in 2015. Also with seemingly little chance of becoming an MEP is Laura Parker, despite being backed by Jon Lansman’s Momentum.
In Croydon Central, Labour will be competing with the Brexit Party for first place, with Farage’s party likely to get the most votes. Croydon Central is another constituency which in 2016 voted to Leave. Based on YouGov’s latest polling, the Conservatives should finish third, 2,000 votes behind – a poor base for any autumn General Election bid by Barwell’s erstwhile bag-carrier, Mario Creatura, their prospective parliamentary candidate.
The Liberal Democrats have been looking happy, especially in their forays up to Upper Norwood and Crystal Palace, where they seem to be trying to build a long-term challenge to Labour in local elections. The LibDems may well top the poll overall across Croydon and Sutton, with the Brexit Party just behind, which would be a very good starting point for them ahead of the 2020 London Assembly campaign.
According to an average of the two polls on European election voting intentions, conducted by YouGov (nationally) and YouGov with Queen Mary College, University of London (in the capital), the parties are predicted to poll as follows (with comparison to their 2014 Euro elections in brackets):
Lab 24% (-12.5%)
LibDem 21% (+14%)
Brexit 20% (+20%)
Green 14% (+6%)
Con 10% (-12.5%)
ChUKa 6% (+6%)
UKIP 1% (-15%)
London has eight seats allocated in the European Parliament, and based on this latest polling, Labour will get two, the LibDems two, as will Brexit, while the Tories and the Greens will get one seat each.
Gerard Batten, the leader of UKIP, who has been milking the European Parliament for salary and allowances as a London MEP since 2004, looks like he, at least, has finally found a way to exit Europe.
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