No sooner had Inside Croydon bothered to report the conference speech made by Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, at her party conference last week, than we started to get concerned messages from sources in parliament and at City Hall.
“Did she really say that?”
“Are you sure she said Croydon?”
“Well, she didn’t brief us about it…”
It turns out that Long-Bailey, who was being tipped as a possible successor to Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, doesn’t know the difference between a somewhat sleepy railway town in Wiltshire and the gritty urban home of Stormzy in sarf London.
“She misspoke,” was the feeble explanation offered from Wrong-Daily’s Westminster office, after in a speech before a packed conference hall of Labour Party activists in Brighton, and televised live across the country, she said the word “Croydon”, when she apparently meant to say… errr… “Swindon”.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Not.
Thing is, the error has been compounded by Long-Bailey in writing for most of the week since.
In her confident-sounding conference speech, in which she advocated using hi-tech, green technologies for a second industrial revolution across the country, Long-Bailey promised £1.8billion investment in three “gigafactories” to build batteries for electric vehicles, of the kind that multi-billionaire industrialist Elon Musk has developed for his Tesla electric cars.
These factories, Long-Bailey announced, would be in “Stoke, Croydon and South Wales”.
She said it very clearly.
Her script is on the Labour Party’s website, and was issued as a press release under the warning “Check against delivery” (which we did). At the time of publication, it is still there, and it is also there, in black and white, on the party’s LabourList website, too.
Turns out that Long-Bailey dropped a giga-sized bollock.
Swindon – which is already home to a vast Honda car manufacturing plant – did get a mention in her speech, but in the context of how the Tory government was managing to undermine the motor industry, with factories under threat or even closing down because of Brexit.
Thing is, this example of a politician being geographically challenged, or a bit hazy on the detail, would have passed unnoticed if Inside Croydon had not followed Long-Bailey’s speech, checked the statement on the Labour Party website, and in good faith reported what she had said.
It was not as if these were some throwaway lines in response to questions at a hurried press conference, or when the shadow minister had been door-stepped unexpectedly. This was her conference speech, which had been prepared over the course of weeks, if not months, unveiling party policy that had been carefully thought-through. You’d think…
Our report set off alarm bells in parliamentary offices at Westminster, with aides making hurried calls to colleagues, and it eventually produced the lame “misspoke” excuse.
It seems that the idea of some kind of green industry nirvana built alongside the A23(M) urban motorway that is the Purley Way is just another false dawn, a politician’s promise that was broken even as it was being uttered.
And that, surely, should be familiar enough territory for Croydon?
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