Our south of the borough reporter, PEARL LEE, on the latest efforts to win political control of the Town Hall
Croydon Tories are gearing up for a battle to win back control of Croydon Town Hall – just in time for all councillors to hand over power to a directly-elected Mayor.
Jason Perry, the leader of the council’s opposition Conservative group, has placed an advertisement on the parliamentary and political jobs recruitment site, w4mpjobs.org, seeking a “group political assistant”, offering up to £30,000 per year “depending on experience”.
The appointment is on a one-year contract, to the end of May 2022. The next local elections are due to be held in Croydon on May 5, 2022.
The Conservatives last held control in Croydon in 2014; after the 2018 local elections Labour had a 41-29 majority in the Town Hall chamber.
The Tory group, with its headquarters in Purley, already has a full-time political agent in Ian Parker, who is also a Coulsdon councillor.
The recruitment of an additional political assistant, with a very specific skills set required, shows some degree of determination by the Tories to end their years in opposition.
“Are you confident producing content for social media, and providing advice to local politicians?” the ad asks.
“Are you a member of the Conservative Party or do you share the party’s beliefs and values?” is the second question, thereby ruling out the vast majority of Croydon residents from their recruitment pool.
According to the ad, “Your primary responsibility will be to create digital content and grow our social media channels.
“You will support councillors and candidates in building relationships with the local community online and proactively ensure that our messages are developed and communicated widely.
“At the same time, you will ensure that key decisions from group meetings are swiftly implemented and proactively identify issues of political interest, whilst supporting councillors with campaigning, engagements and other work as deemed necessary by group leadership.”
The candidate specification, 21 years into the 21st century, suggests that local Tories have woken up to the notion that sticking thousands of leaflets through letterboxes is no longer an optimum way of communicating with the people they seek to represent.
It probably also reflects that former leader Tim Pollard, having stood down from the top job, is also likely to stand down as a councillor in May 2022 to devote more time to family matters. With a background in digital communications, Pollard has done much over the last 20 years to manage and modernise the Croydon Tories’ online presence.
The political assistant’s job description includes, “To create a full social media campaign, lead on the production of social media videos, and to organise social media activity in target wards.” Watch out Addiscombe East and New Addington…
The “person specification” for the job includes, “Demonstrable track record of social media content creation is essential”, while “Knowledge of up to date campaigning techniques” is listed as only “desirable”.
Given Labour’s parlous record while in power in Croydon, particularly over the past 18 months, the Conservatives’ ambition to win a majority of councillors in May 2022 would seem, at face value, entirely understandable.
The trouble is, however good their social media guru proves to be, and however many council seats they win at the next local elections, the Tories may still not win back control of the council in 2022.
That’s because the campaign for a directly-elected Mayor – which Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp and Croydon Tories have backed with such enthusiasm – seems likely to come to fruition on the same day.
A borough-wide referendum is due to be staged in October on the question of whether voters want to continue with the current, broken “strong leader and cabinet” model of governance, or switch to a directly-elected Mayor.
Inside Croydon has not been able to establish yet whether DEMOC, the campaign which collected 20,000 signatures to prompt the referendum, will, in the run-up to October’s vote, be using the hashtag #ABitLessShit.
It is widely believed that the referendum will come down in favour of change. In which case, as well as electing councillors for the borough’s 24 wards in May 2022, on the same day Croydon voters will be asked to choose who they want to set the council’s policies for the next four years.
And therein lies the rub: Croydon appears split down the middle politically, but changing demographics and the Labour majorities in Croydon North and Croydon Central suggest that, despite the clusterfuck created by Tony Newman and his cabal at the council, a strong Labour candidate might still win the Mayoral vote.
From then on, the Mayor would control the council, regardless of how many councillors the political parties have.
We may have better, more up to date data after May 6 this year, when the London elections are held and Croydon stages five ward by-elections, but rough and ready, long-range predictions suggest that in 2022 Croydon Conservatives could win six more council seats than they did in 2018, making it 35-35 under the new Mayor.
Now wouldn’t that be interesting..?
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