As we enter the final week of the General Election campaign, political editor WALTER CRONXITE gets a guide on the likely results from the pollsters and the bookmakers
But Labour figures are already getting rather too heated and over-excited about their party prospects, with council leader Tony “Words Not Deeds” Newman claiming that the Conservative campaign in Croydon South is facing a real threat from his party’s candidate, Olga FitzRoy.
In one of his forays on to social media which, for him, was unusually coherent, Newman made the claim that Tory campaigners had been diverted from the supposedly marginal seat of Croydon Central to help Chris Philp to avoid losing his Croydon South seat. Philp retained the seat in 2017 with a 11,406 majority over Labour, who had benefited from that year’s outbreak of Corbynmania.
The bookmakers, who usually know a thing or two about these matters, say that to win £1 on a bet on the outcome of Croydon South, you’d need to stake £100 on Philp being returned as MP: he’s 100/1 on with William Hill today.
But according to Newman’s tweet, Philp “has hit the panic button”.
Paul Ainscough, FitzRoy’s campaign manager, endorsed Newman’s comment, saying, “Yes, that’s the message we are picking up. ”
Labour’s standing in London does seem to be recovering, and getting closer to its very strong performance in 2017.
That election saw Labour’s Sarah Jones unseat Gavin Barwell in Croydon Central and end the Tory MP’s Commons career. Following Theresa Mayhem’s resignation honours at the end of the summer, Barwell is to be ennobled and join the House of Lords as Baron Barwell of Croydon.
In 2017, Jones secured a 5,562 majority and looks like keeping most of that winning margin this time around.
The “support” Jones’s rival, Creatura, had hoped for and which has deserted his “team”, was the battalion of eager, young churchgoers from the controversial, cult-like SPAC Nation, who after a couple of weeks of enthusiastic canvassing for one of their “pastors” in last month’s Fairfield by-election, then suddenly vanished once Inside Croydon broke the story about senior church members being investigated for fraud and other offences.
Instead, Creatura has been forced into rallying his troops – now predominately male, stale and pale – by meeting up in what is notorious as one of Croydon’s dogging hotspots. And no, that’s not a reference to his family dachshund.
For Philp, too, the campaign trail is beginning to look a lonely one, as he was spotted outside a Wetherspoon’s in Selsdon with no one for company other than Peter Morgan, the notorious former UKIP member who was once kicked out of Croydon Tories for trying to be a member of both parties at the same time.
The latest YouGov London poll, published yesterday, has seen Labour’s polling move up 8per cent to reach 47per cent in the capital, ahead of the Tories on 30per cent. That 47per cent vote share compares with a 54.6per cent score for Labour across London in ballot boxes in 2017.
Jones’s majority in Croydon Central seems unlikely to be dented by as much as London’s modest 2.2per cent swing since 2017 from Labour to the Tories shown in that YouGov poll. Demographic change is running strongly in Labour’s favour in Croydon, transforming the local political geography.
Jones has also built a strong incumbency in her brief two years in the Commons.
The activity level in her campaign is high, greatly outmatching that of her Tory opponent’s. The result from that Fairfield by-election, undoubtedly a serious set-back for Creatura’s own campaign and his standing within the Tory Party, locally and nationally, pointed to a Jones hold with a majority more than 2,000.
Digital media “expert” Creatura continues to push his attempts at data scraping people’s personal information with various polls and links. The only campaign issue on which he has secured traction has been on planning issues, thanks to the electorally toxic conduct of Labour councillor Paul Scott.
Philp has said, “The Labour council’s contemptuous refusal to listen to residents on planning is just as much of an issue in Shirley as it is in Purley, and it will effect how people vote.”
Competition, or the lack of it, from other parties on Brexit plays a role in both the Croydon Central and Croydon South constituencies. That 2019 is the fourth General Election in a decade, and the third in four years, has undoubtedly worn down the resource of the likes of the Liberal Democrats and Green parties, while UKIP and the Brexit Party have barely registered in this election.
The LibDems and Greens are already feeling wronged because of the lack of proportional representation in the election system. But the system also works against them in denying them campaign funds. According to a senior figure with one of the smaller campaign groups, without the benefit of publicly funded council allowances feeding into their party coffers, as the Conservatives and Labour both parties enjoy in Croydon, their party has been unable to build up its election war chest sufficiently since 2017 to pay for another round of leaflets and posters.
That said, the more capable candidates being fielded this time round by the LibDems is seeing some households in Croydon South receiving their party’s leaflets for the first time in 20 years.
The decision of the Brexit Party candidate, Peter Sonnex, to shift from contesting Croydon South (where he was blocked from standing by his party leader Nigel Farage’s gesture to help Boris Johnson) to Croydon Central instead undoubtedly helps Philp, but it will hurt Creatura by splitting off a vital percentage of Croydon Central Tory-voting Brexiteers, especially in New Addington. The LibDems and Greens may mirror that effect for Remain voters considering Jones, though probably not in such numbers.
The Liberal Democrat campaign in Croydon Central has been low key, despite the Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Sprague coming across as a balanced human being, speaking common sense, an unusual trait in any politician. The low level of Liberal Democrat activity protects Jones from too big a number of Remain-supporting Labour voters switching to Sprague.
Both Electoral Calculus and the YouGov mega MRP poll point to comfortable Jones wins. It seems likely that Jones will outperform her party’s London-wide scores and see only a modest fall in her majority.
The odds at reputable high street bookies on a Jones victory in Croydon Central have tightened during the campaign. Originally co-favourites with the Tories at 5/6 on (stake £6 in the hope of winning £5), Jones is now offered to win at 8/13, with Creatura having drifted way out to 6/5. The bookies clearly still see this as a two-horse race, whatever the LibDem graphics might claim.
Croydon South Labour have a candidate with centrist views. Olga FitzRoy (20/1 to win), has gone out of her way to make it plain that she is a resolute Remainer and that she would, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, campaign for Remain in any second EU referendum.
This approach caps the LibDem vote in a seat where the Liberal Democrats are newly active. Tactical Vote, which, funnily enough, advises Remainers how to vote tactically, names FitzRoy as their choice, reminding voters of how Labour got 21,928 votes in 2017 to the LibDems’ paltry 3,541. It is a fact that Anna Jones, the LibDem candidate in Croydon South two years ago and this time round again, found difficult to face up to when interviewed by this website’s editor, Steven Downes, for the Under The Flyover podcast.
As well as being an apologist for Bullshit Boris Johnson’s racist, Islamophobic and homophobic remarks, Philp has reinvented himself as a stout defender of the government line to “End the Brexit Uncertainty”, having been a Remainer. He has a strong incumbency and many residents are quoted on Tory literature speaking highly of their MP.
Philp is clearly winning a lot of votes because of the widespread distrust of councillor Paul Scott, who has also become a strong motivational force in the ongoing campaign for a petition calling for a Directly Elected Mayor for Croydon. Philp says a reason to vote for him is to “Fight Labour’s Planning Disaster”. The coincidence of the Purley Tower planning inquiry being conducted during the election campaign probably also helps Philp.
As with Anna Jones’s campaign, FitzRoy has also benefited from a much more active campaign by Labour in Croydon South than has been run previously in the seat in 2010, 2015 and 2017. Her campaign is run by former Croydon Central MP Andrew Pelling and Ainscough, himself a former Labour parliamentary candidate.
But it is demographic change that dominates in Croydon South, just as it does in Croydon North, and a reduction in Philp’s majority in percentage terms is Labour’s modest aim here in this seat.
But if Philp is in such a safe seat that he is 100/1 on, Steve Reed OBE, the Labour MP for Croydon North since 2012, is so much of a nailed-on certainty that the bookmakers have not even bothered to price-up his constituency for their election bets.
The Tories’ campaign in Croydon North, with a delayed announcement of their candidate – another hand-picked Creatura choice, Donald Ekekhomen – was sunk before it started, ensnared in the SPAC Nation controversy (Ekekhomen is a practising catholic, but had supported SPAC figures). Reed, for one, won’t be losing any sleep next Thursday night.
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