Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on a spanner in the works of Conservative hopes of winning a council seat
Croydon Tories are fuming that one of their party’s former candidates is standing as an independent in next month’s New Addington North by-election, wrecking their chances of winning the council seat from Labour.
Michael Castle was one of the Conservative Party’s official council candidates in what was then known as Fieldway ward at the 2014 local elections. Suffice to say, he did not win.
The by-election in the re-named New Addington North is one of five being staged in Croydon on May 6, alongside the London Assembly and London Mayor elections. The New Addington North vote has been called following the resignation as councillor of Simon Hall, the Labour-controlled council’s cabinet member for finance.
With widespread anti-Labour sentiment over the council’s financial collapse on Hall’s watch, Council Tax increases, controversial Brick by Brick developments around New Addington and the recent council housing scandal, the Tories believed that this was a seat ready for the taking, and at the weekend they named Lara Fish, an activist with strong local connections, as their candidate.
But Castle has put a spanner in the works by putting himself forward as an independent.
He posted on social media, “As I have seen Labour putting their New Addington North candidate leaflets out, it’s time to declare that I will be standing in the by-election for New Addington North (Fieldway). I will be standing as an independent.
“Over the last 10 years or so I have been attending DWP tribunals, meeting with council officers for residents who need help with… issues, repairs and even environmental concerns.
“I am born and bread [sic] Fieldway (always lived here). I have my friend [sic], family and community that I care for here and will be keeping you all updated with what I will be doing on the lead up to this election. So we will soon be seeing Vote Castle once again on the local level of government.”
As well as having been a council candidate for the Tories, Castle has also admitted to having considered joining the Labour Party. He has stood for election as an independent before, in 2010 for the Croydon Central parliamentary seat. Castle got 138 votes, or 0.3 per cent of the poll, on a day when 19,567 others voted for Gavin Barwell.
At that time, he revealed that his “greatest achievement” at school or college was his “BTEC National Diploma in Uniformed Public Services” from Croydon College.
He also explained why he wanted to become involved with politics: “I am a Croydon resident, I have lived in New Addington all my life and will stick up for New Addington as people always seem to say bad things about us up here and it is untrue.
“I’m from New Addington and nothing, not even the stigma attached to New Addington, is going to stop me getting where I want to be.”
In what is expected to be a tightly run contest, anything that splits the Conservative vote will reduce their chances of winning.
“We can beat them if everyone against Labour all stick together and vote Conservative,” one Tory supporter said.
“I like Michael a lot but only Conservative candidate Lara Fish can beat Labour and help ditch the Labour council,” said another, someone with an appalling grasp of simple arithmetic: even if the Tories were to win all five of the seats up for grabs on Croydon Council on May 6, they would still be four short of having a majority in the Town Hall.
In the meantime, the New Addington Residents’ Association issued a statement over the Easter weekend to announce that Fish has stood down as their organisation’s secretary andresigned from the committee.
“This is in line without constitution which enshrines neutrality and prohibits committee members from being openly party political,” the statement read.
“NARA would like to thank Lara for her hard work in the community and for helping to establish the residents’ association.”
A replacement committee member and secretary will be chosen at NARA’s forthcoming annual meeting.
Read more: Tories include a proven liar among by-election candidates
Read more: Candidates’ tough task to shake off Labour reputation
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council
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