WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest piece of ‘genius’ from the BBC’s most-favoured politician, Nigel Farage
A former army bomb disposal expert could be about to explode Tory Mario Creatura’s dream of becoming an MP.
Nominations for candidates for the General Election on December 12 closed yesterday at 4pm, and when Croydon Council published its lists for the borough’s three constituencies, it showed that in the one marginal seat, alongside Remainer Sarah Jones, for Labour, and hard Brexit supporting Creatura for the Conservatives, there was also Peter Sonnex of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
After a particularly bad week for Creatura, where his latest little stunt, of cosying up with the cult-like SPAC Nation church, had got him mired in controversy and scandal, he is now confronted with the prospect of the Brexit Party taking potentially a decisive number of Tory votes come polling day.
On Monday, Nigel Farage stuck his oar in, possibly after the offer of a peerage from Boris Johnson.
Just a week after solemnly promising to stand candidates in every seat, Farage said, “The Brexit party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election.
We will concentrate our total effort into all the seats that are held by the Labour party, who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the referendum, and we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties. We will stand up and fight them all.”
It is a stroke political genius worthy of Mr Bean, and one which could cost Creatura any chance he had of regaining Croydon Central for the Tories.
Croydon Central is where Jones beat Creatura’s former boss, Gavin Barwell, by 5,600 votes in 2017. In 2015, the marginal seat had been decided by a margin of just 165 votes, keeping Barwell (and therefore Creatura at the time) in their Westminster jobs.
Until Monday, Sonnex, a bus driver from Biggin Hill, was the Brexit Party candidate for Croydon South.
That’s the safe Conservative seat held since 2015 by Chris Philp, the Tory who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, but who has since become wedded to the hard Brexit favoured by Boris Johnson, since such an unprincipled stance has allowed him to make some belated progress up the slippery career pole at Westminster.
No matter whether Croydon South had a Brexit Party candidate or not, the chances are that come December 13, Philp will still be an MP.
Sonnex has seen military service in war zones including the Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq, and clearly has a taste for battle. He had been campaigning in Croydon South since the summer, but this week, once Farage pulled the plug on that seat, the Brexit candidate pressed the detonator on Creatura’s chances by putting himself forward for Croydon Central instead.
Without any detailed polling in the individual constituencies, it is impossible to know with certainty what voters’ intentions might be – indeed, early indications from some canvassers is that most people are sick and tired of the entire political merry-go-round, and of the Brexit saga, and they are approaching a fourth General Election in nine years with little enthusiasm. Turn-out on a damp, dark December Thursday could be very low.
But we do know that in the 2016 EU referendum, Croydon North and Croydon South both voted to remain, while Croydon Central was basically a 50-50 split, with quitters narrowly edging it.
At the 2015 General Election in Croydon Central, the anti-EU candidate, Peter Staveley for Farage’s UKIP, polled 4,810 votes, or 9.1 per cent, a significant chunk of ballot papers in an election where the outcome was determined by less than a couple of hundred.
Two years later, and with Brexit apparently Government policy, Staveley’s share of the vote dropped to less than 2 per cent, as Croydon Central elected a Remain-supporting Labour MP. Indeed, that day UKIP polled fewer votes (just) than the LibDems. Yet while there has been talk of a “Remain Alliance” in other seats – such as nearby Dulwich and West Norwood, which is Labour-held – there is no such agreement reached in Croydon, where Greens and LibDems are fielding candidates in all three seats.
For Sarah Jones in Croydon Central, therefore, she must hope that Sonnex takes more votes from Coulsdon councillor Creatura than Simon Sprague or Esther Sutton do from her.
Sutton, the popular landlady of The Oval Tavern, was the Greens’ candidate in last week’s Fairfield by-election, where she seemed to barely campaign at all (237 votes on that day), no doubt storing up her local party’s scarce resources for the impending General Election.
Sprague appears to be a different calibre of LibDem candidate than most of Croydon has had for some time. A Wellesley Road resident, he has been working the constituency for a while, and in common with all his party’s General Election candidates, will have the words “To Stop Brexit” on the ballot paper alongside his name.
The Liberal Democrats even went to the trouble of staging a campaign launch event last night – for which they chose that den of gentrification, Matthew’s Yard, which has previously held Tory and Labour Party campaign events. So clearly, over-priced, vegan coffee knows no political boundaries.
But as the Fairfield by-election showed, the LibDems are short of activists in Croydon, and with Tom Brake in Carshalton and Wallington fighting for his political survival, they probably can’t look for any help from the party’s nearby stronghold.
In any case, Jones and Croydon Labour knew before Wednesday that they would have to deal with Remain votes leaching out to the Greens and LibDems. Creatura had no idea until yesterday that the Brexit Party would be on the same ballot paper. The publication of the nomination papers yesterday will have been a cruel blow to the political careerist, who faces the prospects of further adverse publicity over Croydon Tories and SPAC Nation in this week’s Sunday newspapers.
There are no surprises in the candidate declarations for the other Croydon constituencies, where Labour’s Steve Reed OBE is taking on candidates from five other parties in Croydon North, including the Christian People’s Alliance’s Candace Mitchell, all the way from the North East Cambridgeshire constituency, what was once the Isle of Ely in Clement Freud’s day; it all seems rather a waste of the £500 deposit, which surely could be better spent on other, more deserving causes.
General Elections are supposed to happen only once every five years.
David Cameron, the worst Prime Minister in this country’s history – a decade’s austerity for the majority of the country to pay for the banks’ bail-out; a Scottish independence referendum that risked splitting the United Kingdom for Tory political advantage; as well as the purgatory caused by the Brexit referendum, called to solve a crisis in his own party – came up with the Fixed Term Parliament Act, a constitutional mess which has singularly failed in its function, as this will be the fourth General Election since 2010.
As a result, enthusiasm for an election is very low – as demonstrated in the absence of any independents or Monster Raving Looneys, or even a Winston McKenzie character to enliven hustings or polling night. Indeed, such is the wider sense of reluctance about this election, there appears to be no hustings events in Croydon arranged at all yet.
The idea of constituents choosing the best available candidate seems to be becoming ever more remote, with centralised, more presidential-style elections based on false promises plastered across buses (did Sonnex drive that bus?), as the nation’s political discourse becomes ever more dominated with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg regurgitating what Boris Johnson’s aides have told her, while Question Times merrily provides a platform, yet again, for Nigel Farage to demonstrate what a political genius he is. Or not.
Some might think that it is just as well, therefore, that some places, such as Croydon, have independently published news websites to keep the electorate up to date with news from the borough…
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