After a week to let the dust settle and some of the implications of the voting sink in, our resident psephologist WALTER CRONXITE crunches more numbers from the European elections and discovers that two of the borough’s sitting MPs have much to consider
Guidance on where the European elections have left morale in Croydon political circles can be found in the blog of the former chairman of the Croydon Conservatives, Alasdair Stewart.
In Croydon, once a bastion of true-blue Toryism, the Conservatives trailed in fifth in the European elections at the end of May, behind Labour, LibDems, the Brexit Party and the Greens, as the Tory share of all votes cast collapsed to a pathetic 10.6 per cent.
In the aftermath of recriminations, which saw Theresa Mayhem finally announce her resignation as party leader on the morning after polling day, Stewart – the lawyer who had been the local party’s chair until earlier this year – lashed out. “The blame for this must squarely sit with those currently running the party in Croydon, who seemed to have entirely given up on the European elections,” Stewart wrote.
Stewart picks out MP Chris Philp for failing to show leadership to other local Tories. “Hardly anyone tweeted about the European Elections – including most notably nothing from Croydon South MP Chris Philp, which in the circumstances might not be too surprising, except he also happens to be the party’s national vice chairman for policy! When a party’s elected representatives don’t even bother to tell people to vote, why would voters bother?”
Stewart contrasts Croydon Tories’ inactivity (on the night of the election, they went ahead with a fund-raising dinner with Philp’s mate, Sajid Javid, rather than even trying to get the vote out) with Labour’s higher profile, out talking to voters.
Labour Party sources suggest, however, that much of their campaigning came despite opposition from their professional officials. The 2019 Europeans were elections which neither of the two major parties expected to take place, nor wanted.
But for Croydon Labour, coming first in the borough is a morale-booster when, in only one other south of the river London borough, Greenwich, did they hold pole position. The Liberal Democrats led in all the others.
It was a close run thing in Croydon, with both the LibDems and the Brexit Party snapping at their heels.
2019 European Parliament elections: the Croydon votes
Labour 22,375 23.3%
LibDems 21,289 22.2%
Brexit 20,728 21.6%
Green 10,629 11.1%
Cons 10,139 10.6%
ChUKa 4,636 4.8%
UKIP 2,480 2.6%
Others 3,801 4.0%
The result for Labour was probably more to do with its strength in the Croydon North parliamentary constituency than any local campaigning.
But that Labour can hold first place in such an adverse political environment, and with the Tony Newman-led council plumbing new depths of unpopularity – puts them in a better position than they might have expected across the borough, with the exception of Croydon South.
By contrast, across the border in Lambeth the alarm bells are ringing after a 25 per cent collapse in Labour’s vote, as Remain-backing voters fled to the LibDems and Greens. Streatham’s Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie was elected to the European Parliament to represent London. Nearby, Lewisham also saw a 20 per cent drop in the Labour vote.
Croydon’s Labour councillors appear to be oblivious to any messages that might be taken from the Euro polls, preferring to take the view that normal service will soon be resumed, and the cosy old Town Hall political duopoly will soon reassert itself.
The small clutch of Croydon Liberal Democrats remain focused on defending their heartlands… in Sutton. They are so few in number in Croydon that they have boots on the ground activity only at opposite ends of the borough, in Old Coulsdon and in Upper Norwood. The Brexit Party has, as yet, no local organisation or relevant Croydon-focused story to tell.
But Croydon Tories and Labour alike would be mistaken to sit back and wait for the old regime to reassert itself.
Findings from another huge Lord Ashcroft poll show that voters might not be keen to return to the Lab-Tory folds now that they have made the break. Only one-quarter of Labour voters who went to Liberal Democrats on May 23 say they would go back to Jeremy Corbyn’s party at a General Election.
According to the Ashcroft poll, two-thirds of the Brexit vote was garnered from Tory voters. But only one-third of those unfaithful would at the moment think about ending their dalliance with the charming Farridge.
With this possibility, it is worth looking at how those European votes will have been distributed around Croydon’s three parliamentary constituencies, using the assumption that such distribution mirrored the share of each political party’s vote across the three Parliamentary constituencies in 2017. UKIP is used as a proxy for the Brexit Party in the calculations.
If these voting patterns were to be repeated, then both Sarah Jones and Chris Philp risk losing their Westminster seats.
Labour 10,300 34.0%
LibDem 5,650 18.6%
Brexit 5,400 17.8%
Green 3,850 12.7%
Others 3,400 11.2%
Cons 1,700 5.6%
Brexit 7,450 27.4%
Labour 6,950 25.6%
LibDem 3,650 13.4%
Cons 3,550 13.1%
Others 3,150 11.6%
Green 2,450 9.0%
LibDem 12,000 31.1%
Brexit 7,900 20.5%
Labour 5,150 13.3%
Cons 4,850 12.6%
Green 4,350 11.3%
Others 4,350 11.3%
The calculations reveal just how dire the Conservatives’ fifth-placed performance 10 days ago was, with the departure of droves of Tory voters to Farage, leaving them in fourth place even in Philp’s previously rock-solid Conservative Croydon South seat.
The figures also suggest that Tory candidate Mario Creatura has much work to do if he is ever to be a credible challenger to Labour’s Sarah Jones in Croydon Central.
Forty years ago the popular comedy actor Roy Kinnear appeared in a series of television advertisements to encourage people and businesses to move to a sleepy Cambridgeshire city. The ads were entitled “The Peterborough Effect”, and although lucrative for Kinnear, he never really got to enjoy his success as he met a sticky end (he fell off a horse during filming a movie).
This Thursday, in the by-election brought about by a politician’s lies, both major parties appear set to suffer a Peterborough Effect of their own, Labour possibly losing the seat and the Tories losing their dignity, as Farage’s party is predicted by some to gain its first MP.
Even Creatura leading a Croydon team to campaign for the Tories’ far-right candidate in Peterborough yesterday seems unlikely to soften the blows at the ballot box. Some might even suggest that Creatura’s sorry crew might have encouraged waiverers to vote Brexit (though at least Gavin Barwell’s ambitious former bag-carrier will have logged a busy day on social media, which will doubtless go on his candidate file at Central Office for the next time a safe Conservatibe parliamentary seat becomes available – when that might be under current circumstances is hard to predict).
It won’t have been lost on others, such as Stewart, that Creatura’s Croydon Tories managed to show a capacity for campaigning in Peterborough far more enthusiastically than they did on their home patch for the Euros.
Labour’s job now is to hold Croydon Central at the next General Election for Jones. Labour will have been just beaten to first place in this Vote Leave constituency by Brexit. New Addington seems to be a likely battleground for Farage’s party.
Croydon North remains impregnable for Labour. The LibDems putting tellers on every single polling station in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood on May 23 shows their long-term intent to gain a council foothold there.
Croydon South now sees the Liberal Democrats as the party that Chris Philp needs to overhaul to keep his seat. Labour continues to struggle to make any impression among the leafy suburbia of Purley, Kenley and Coulsdon.
Who the Tories and the Liberal Democrats choose in the coming weeks as their party leaders and how they perform will have a significant impact on whether the comfy Tory-Labour duopoly in Croydon politics holds sway.
If one looks at the current Ashcroft sticky new loyalty scores, even the LibDems are still six points ahead of the Tories if a shock new General Election poll in Croydon South was held. Philp, who has declared support for Sajid Javid, rather than Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, will hope that a new leader will sort out a seat that for the first time in decades is “in play” as a Liberal Democrat target.
The recent YouGov national poll was astounding for being the first ever not to have either of the two largest political parties placed in the top two places. Applying that poll through the Electoral Calculus program gives as the constituency winners: Croydon North – Labour; Croydon Central – Labour; and Croydon South – Liberal Democrat.
Two more polls this weekend, one from Deltapoll, the other from Opinium, show continuing volatility. Opinium had the Tories at 17 per cent, their worst ever national rating since polling started in 1943.
Volatility in opinion poll scores is inevitable, as the old discipline of the First Past The Post system, which kept voters away from anything other than a binary choice in most seats, is now competing with the anger and confusion arising from Brexit (the process, not the party). In June 2019, voters are more likely to define themselves as “Leave” or “Remain”, rather than by the colour of a candidate’s rosette.
Opinium did overstate Brexit’s standing in the European Elections by 8 per cent, as against the final result, so care is needed in extrapolating some polls.
The size of the expensive Ashcroft poll – 10,000 canvassed – makes that the more reliable pointer among recent activity, especially with its focus on the difference between European (list-style voting, where even the Greens had some chance of winning seats) and General Election (FPTP) voting.
The Deltapoll would see Croydon South return Conservatives over the Brexit Party and Croydon Central Labour over the Brexit Party. The record-low Tory standing in the Opinium poll would push Creatura back into fourth place in Croydon Central, with the seat being a Labour hold over Brexit. But on this poll, in Croydon South, the Tory dam would burst to let in a Faragist Brexit MP.
We are, as Roy Kinnear probably never said, living in interesting times.
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