WALTER CRONXITE crunches the numbers after a council by-election where the biggest losers were the residents of Croydon
Jack Buck, the Labour Party paid employee who fixed the Fairfield ward selection so that his friend, Caragh Skipper, could be nominated as the candidate for a safe seat, last night hailed a “great Croydon Labour victory”, as he supped his over-priced craft ale at the by-election party held in the formerly Tory-supporting Matthews Yard gentrification bar.
With “great victories” such as that masterminded by Buck and council leader Tony Newman, if played out across the whole country, Labour will lose 30 seats at next month’s General Election.
Skipper, at the third time of trying, has finally found a way on to the Town Hall allowances gravy train, much to Newman’s evident relief in the early hours of this morning, as he propped himself against the bar, his hands firmly in his pockets as he let others pay for his celebrations.
But post mortems and recriminations over candidate choice and the outcome of yesterday’s by-election seem certain, for the local Tory Party as well as Labour.
It was a by-election called after Labour councillor Niro Sirisena – a mutual friend of Skipper’s and Buck’s – resigned his seat following “a serious incident” and one which Newman told the council was a matter under police investigation.
This was not over Sirisena’s failure to disclose, as he was required to do by law, that he’d been a paid employee of Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones for six months.
Sources within the Croydon Labour Party maintain that Sirisena’s resignation was over a much more serious matter, one which Newman stubbornly refused to explain during the by-election campaign, and a matter which the council leader withheld from the police while the “political issues” – Sirisena’s status as a councillor and Labour Party member – were resolved. This misconduct in public office, too, is a matter which deserves closer examination.
The by-election having been called, the outcome was worse for Labour than Inside Croydon predicted last month.
That prediction, based on recent opinion polls, was made before the extremely damaging revelations about the fraud investigation into the SPAC Nation church of Conservative candidate Jayde Edwards were published by this website.
The turnout was abysmal, even by the standards of council by-elections. Barely 2,000 people from a possible electorate of 9,167 bothered casting a vote – a turnout of 22.77 per cent. But then it is cold, wet and November, and many of the public have better things to do with their time than massage the over-sized egos of the likes of Newman and his cabal of full-time local politicians.
The result, as declared not long after 11pm last night, was:
Caragh Skipper (Lab) 849 votes (40.8% -10.2)
Jaye Edwards (SPAC/Con) 536 (25.7% -4.1)
Andrew Rendle (FibDem) 397 (19.1% +10.0)
Esther Sutton (Green) 237 (11.4% +1.3)
Heather Twidle (Women’s Equality) 40 (1.9% +1.9)
Mark Samuel (Independent) 23 (1.1% +1.1)
Given that Edwards was boasting last weekend of having 300 youthful members of her SPAC Nation church out campaigning for her, the fact that she polled less than two votes per canvasser might prompt the question of why she, and her Tory mentor, Mario Creatura, bothered at all.
But the fraud investigation scandal Inside Croydon reported earlier this week undoubtedly took the shine off the Creatura-inspired, SPAC-driven campaign. Our reports have since been followed-up by national, mainstream media (a reporter from The Grauniad was based in Matthews Yard much of yesterday and last night, and he wasn’t there for the by-election turn-out numbers), with further damaging revelations surrounding grooming and abuse at the cult-like church expected to come this weekend.
What was noticeable yesterday in Fairfield was the absence of something. Unlike the previous three weekends, when gangs of SPAC supporters were noisily distributing leaflets around Fairfield ward, there were few observed actively “getting the vote out” on Thursday for the supposedly Conservative Party candidate.
The explanation for their absence may have come in some social media messages distributed in the hours before the polling stations opened.
By Wednesday night, Edwards was tweeting messages to her supporters which read like she was conceding electoral defeat. Meanwhile “bling-loving pastor” Tobi Adegboyega recorded a long and rambling video, shared with his followers via Periscope, in which he declared that he wasn’t bothered by the politics of either main party, that he really didn’t know why SPAC was even bothering trying to get one of their number elected as a councillor, because the role was not powerful enough or well-paid enough, and that what he really wanted was for SPAC to have one of its members become an MP.
So even against a self-defeating opponent, the vote for Skipper collapsed compared to the worst-performing Labour candidate in Fairfield at the May 2018 local elections. To the end of the campaign, many Labour activists and some councillors boycotted, angry at the way Jose Joseph had been dumped by the party as Buck fixed the nomination in favour of his friend.
On such a poor turn-out, it is hard to extrapolate too much that might be meaningful come the General Election in five weeks’ time. For the record, however, in Croydon Central such a polling pattern would see Sarah Jones returned as the Labour MP although with her majority from 2017 reduced by 60 per cent. In Croydon South, Tory Chris Philp might see his majority edge up to 15,000 votes or beyond.
In Croydon North, the Conservatives – in apparent internal disarray after the scandal of the SPAC entryism – have not even managed to name a candidate. Steve Reed OBE can carry on working on his shadow ministerial brief for child protection.
If the Fairfield result were repeated across Croydon in a borough-wide election, two of Newman’s most trusted lackeys – Louisa Woodley and Maddie Henson – would both lose their Town Hall sinecures, though Labour would retain control of the council.
Even with the poor turnout, and even though former Newman loyalist Andrew Rendle, now of the FibDems, ran what looked a poorly resourced campaign, there was a flicker of a swing to his latest political party, enough to overtake Esther Sutton of the Greens and to suggest that some Conservative parliamentary seats will be lost to the Liberal Democrats next month.
At a national level, were Croydon Labour’s “great victory” repeated on December 12, Boris Johnson’s Tories look as if they will cling on to control at Westminster.
Where will Buck, Newman and Skipper and their chums go to celebrate then?
- Inside Croydon has been digging out the news stories that those in power don’t want you to know about since 2010. Help us continue to do that, and for £5 per month get access to our Under The Flyover podcast, plus benefit from money-off offers and priority booking for special events. Click here to find out more
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: For two consecutive years, 2017 and 2018, Inside Croydon has been the source for two award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- In 2018, Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by more than half a million unique visitors
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or what to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com