NOT-SO-SPECIAL ELECTION SPECIAL: Labour has slipped back in the London Assembly voting, with its worst result in Croydon and Sutton for 13 years. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
Neil “Father Jack” Garratt was named on Saturday as Croydon and Sutton’s London Assembly Member – only the third Assembly Member to represent this super-constituency of more than 430,000 voters in the 21-year history of the GLA, and all of them have been Tories.
Garratt takes over from “Silent” Steve O’Connell, who has retired from public office (not that anyone would notice).
Garratt did not waste much time after the vote declaration held at Olympia from posting a self-regarding tweet once it was confirmed that the Sutton councillor had attracted 75,246 votes – 18,271 more than Labour candidate Patsy Cummings.
That margin of victory is more than double the number of votes that separated Tory and Labour candidates in 2012, and nearly 8,000 more than the victory margin in 2016, when Marina Ahmad was Labour’s candidate.
Ahmad switched constituencies, running in Lambeth and Southwark this time round, and so the former Bromley councillor (she stood down there because of her likely responsibilities at City Hall) became the first Muslim woman elected to the London Assembly.
Given the lacklustre campaign waged by Cummings and disappointing outcome, it might be a while before the councillor in South Norwood ward manages to match Ahmad’s achievements.
In a week of serious electoral concerns for Croydon Labour, the 1.85 per cent swing from Labour to the Conservatives in Croydon and Sutton Assembly seat was in line with the London-wide swing to the Tories on the Assembly.
The turnout in these covid elections was higher than expected, with 42 per cent.
The full vote was as follows
Garratt Conservative 75,246 41.4% (up 2.8% on 2016)
Cummings Labour 56,975 31.3% (down 0.9%)
Bonham Liberal Democrat 26,258 14.4% (up 4%)
Underwood Green 18,069 9.9% (up 2.5%)
Poll Reform UK 3,190 1.8%
Sampson Let London Live 2,021 1.1%
Conservative majority: 18,271
The result makes 2012, when Louisa Woodley lost by 9,418, the high watermark for Labour in this seat.
Garratt will be the seat’s first Sutton-based representative. His over-40 per cent score has only been achieved twice before, by O’Connell in 2008 and Andrew Pelling in 2000.
Cummings will have hoped that Sadiq Khan’s commanding lead in the opinion polls over Tory rival Shaun Bailey might have been enough to have carried her to City Hall on the Mayor’s coat-tails.
But Khan’s early lead was whittled away, and the Labour Mayor only got 40 per cent of the vote on first preferences, down 4.2 per cent on 2016.
It was this slight downturn in support for Labour that saw the party lose one of its three AMs from the London-wide list, while the Greens (up to three seats) and LibDems (two) both gained seats, as past support for far-right Brexit parties evaporated.
Khan’s reputation as a possible competitor with another Mayor, Andy Burnham, to lead the Labour Party will also have been damaged by a poor showing against a widely derided Tory candidate.
Sutton’s LibDems, having lost both MPs in the borough, will take some comfort managing to scramble third place, encouraging their hopes to retian control of their council next year.
The fourth place for the Green’s Peter Underwood will disappoint his party. who hoped to emerge as the clear third-placed party in local politics. Underwood was, though, a clear but distant third in the Woodside council by-election held on the same day.
By contrast, in neighbouring Lambeth and Southwark Assembly election, the Greens were second behind Ahmad.
The very low showing for the Croydon and Sutton Reform candidate will have aided the Tory cause.
Polling day also saw two referendums held in the capital on directly elected mayoral systems.
Newham and Tower Hamlets both already have elected mayors. Newham electors were given a choice between continuing to have an elected mayor or changing to a council committee system. There, they opted to stay with the mayoralty with a 56 per cent vote.
In Tower Hamlets, all the main parties recommended dropping the mayoral system and using instead the “Strong” leader model, which has been used in Croydon. The Tower Hamlets voters ignored the parties and voted 77.8 per cent in favour of keeping their mayoral system.
These strong votes for mayors will encourage Croydon’s DEMOC campaign ahead of the referendum that they have secured for October 7.
Read more: Tories are tipped to cling on to Croydon and Sutton seat
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