If the pollsters have got their numbers right, history could be about to be made in next month’s London Assembly elections, according to our resident psephologist WALTER CRONXITE
This time next month, for the first time in history, Croydon and Sutton’s London Assembly Member could be from the Labour Party.
That remarkable turn of events at the London elections on May 6 has little or nothing to do with the subterraneanly low-profile campaign conducted on behalf of Patsy Cummings, and everything to do with the commanding lead in the polls of Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, and the blunder-ridden campaign of hapless Tory challenger Shaun Bailey.
Cummings, as a councillor in crisis-hit, Labour-controlled Croydon, has used coronavirus lockdowns as a good excuse for keeping her head down these last few months. Until the past couple of weekends, weekly phone-banking sessions have been the extent of her campaigning.
It seems unlikely that anyone at Labour’s London region organisation, or more locally, has strategised that “never interrupt your enemy while they are making their own mistakes” is the best course of action for Cummings.
But given her own role in her council’s financial disaster – she was deputy cabinet member for finance until very recently – and the scandal surrounding the appalling state of council flats in her own South Norwood ward, Cummings might consider that avoiding drawing too much attention to her recent track record is the shrewd thing to do.
Doing the heavy lifting in London Labour’s campaigning is Khan, the city’s first five-year-term Mayor, whose manifesto launch yesterday was generally greeted with a … shrug.
In this covid-blighted era, and with Transport for London under the financial control of the Tory-run Ministry of Transport, London politicians of all stripes are severely restricted in what they can do, or realistically offer. The next two or three years must be all about battening down the hatches and waiting for post-coronavirus normality and economic recovery.
Nevertheless, Khan continues to hold a commanding lead in London opinion polls, suggesting that the Conservatives are set to lose the Croydon and Sutton Assembly seat for the first time in 21 years.
The latest poll by YouGov for the Mile End Institute, published yesterday, puts Khan 21 per cent ahead of Bailey on first preferences, by 47 per cent to 26 per cent. It means it is still possible, come polling day on May 6, for Khan to get 50 per cent of first preference votes and thus become the first London Mayor since 2000 to be elected on the first ballot alone.
The bookies, who tend to get these things right (have you ever met a poor bookmaker?) are offering 1/33 on Khan to win – that’s win just £1 for every £33 you stake as a punter.
Bailey isn’t even rated as second favourite. One of the plethora of independent candidates, Brian Rose, a former American banker, is believed to have “lumped on” himself and so affecting the odds available, and is rated as a 9/1 shot.
Bailey is an outsider in the betting at 14/1, with the field 50/1 bar those.
Minor party candidates, including independents, are polling a bit better than in 2016, perhaps reflecting voters’ disillusion with a lacklustre contest which seems likely to see voter participation reduced in a covid-19 environment.
Even in outer London, traditionally a stronger base for the Conservatives, Bailey trails by 28 per cent to Khan’s 45 per cent. It’s figures like that which could see Cummings riding on Khan’s coattails into City Hall.
Bailey has this week thrown another spanner in the works in his already gaffe-prone campaign with his promise to “oppose any plans for new tower blocks in outer London”, something that could be a huge game-changer and mean that even more extra housing in Croydon would be displaced into suburban neighbourhoods.
Khan’s predicted 5.9 per cent swing from the Conservatives to Labour across London might be reduced in Croydon because of the council’s troubles and scandals.
While Town Hall mismanagement will likely motivate Croydon’s Tory voters, there are already signs that many Labour supporters, in particular those new activists who were enthused and energised to campaign for the party in 2017 and 2018, are either drifting away or even choosing to back alternative candidates, including the Greens’ impressive candidate in Croydon and Sutton, Peter Underwood.
But there is a strong correlation between Mayoral and Assembly votes when it is merely a London contest between Labour and Conservatives.
Cummings only needs a 3.25 per cent swing to become Croydon and Sutton’s first London Assembly Member, and start to collect her £58,543 per year City Hall salary. Chances are, the swing to Labour in this constituency could be 3.9 per cent.
Based on the most recent polls, the likely results on a reduced turnout in Croydon and Sutton looks to be:
Cummings – Labour 52,000 (35.4% – up 3.2% from 2016)
Garratt – Conservative 50,000 (34% – down 4.6%)
Underwood – Green 16,000 (10.9% – up 3.5%)
Bonham – LibDems 15,500 (10.5% – up 0.1%)
Poll – ReformUK 10,000 (6.8% – new)
Sampson – Let London Live 3,500 (2.4% – new)
The last date to register to vote in the London Mayoral and London Assembly elections is April 19. You can register to vote in a number of ways, including online. For Croydon residents, voter registration information can be found by clicking here.
In terms of “voting differently” because of coronavirus, many people are opting to use the postal ballot system this year. Details of how to register for a postal vote can be found by clicking here.
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