Conservatives in Croydon, hungry for power, are beginning to see the Prime Minister as an electoral liability. By political editor WALTER CRONXITE
With election day in one month’s time, Croydon Conservatives, having been first to pick their Mayoral candidate and the quickest to name all their ward council candidates, are now running weeks behind Labour in publishing their manifesto – their promises to the public for the next four years.
But the candidate declarations, which closed this week, make something absolutely clear: Jason Perry and the brains trust running the Croydon Tories’ campaign are deeply embarrassed by bumbling Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and their law-breaking, philandering, tax-dodging, party-going national party colleagues at Westminster.
Every one of the Tories’ 70 candidates standing for election across Croydon’s 28 wards on May 5 will be described on the ballot papers next month as “Local Conservatives”.
The message is clear: we ain’t nuffink to do with the shambles who are filling out questionnaires from Scotland Yard in between supposedly running the country.
But that might not be enough to distance Croydon’s Tories from the country’s Benny Hill-like premier at a time of rising stealth taxes and soaring inflation.
Given the complete clusterfuck that has been the Labour-run Town Hall in Croydon over the last few years, the Conservatives really ought to be a shoo-in come May 5.
But across London, the Conservatives have been polling by as much as 30per cent behind Labour, suggesting that in any borough other than Croydon the Tories are facing an electoral meltdown next month.
Clearly, the nightmare of Newman and his numpties is not considered enough to scare Croydon voters into lending their support to another bunch of serial incompetents and shysters, and hence the prefix “Local” has been added to their candidates’ descriptions.
Tories in neighbouring boroughs such as Bromley and Lambeth are not pulling any such superficial stunt. They still appear as “The Conservative Party candidate”.
However, the “Local Conservatives” in next-door Sutton, where they fancy Ruth Dombey’s FibDems’ citadel is beginning to crumble, clearly agree with their Croydon colleagues that they also need to distance themselves from a national party which is divided over the on-going disaster that is Brexit, the response to covid and the cost of living crisis.
With a deeply dull candidate for Mayor in Perry and the continuing scandals breaking in and around Downing Street, the “Local Conservatives” here appear anxious that they need, in some way, to demonstrate some perceived difference with their lot at Westminster.
Which is something that will only create further difficulties for them in the coming weeks when rule-breaking Chris Philp or other Tory MPs turn up for the next round of egregious photo-ops and mutual back-slapping in the run-up to polling day.
In that respect, Labour have already been wheeling out what they must regard as their “big guns”, though their MPs’ visits have been done almost entirely as visible support of Mayoral candidate Val Shawcross, and not so much for the tired old re-treads from Tony Newman’s disastrous Town Hall cabinet that bankrupted the borough, some of whom still think they can be re-elected.
MPs Ellie Reeves (who?), Tooting’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (straight after a mercy mission to Ukraine) and Blairite flag-bearer Wes Streeting have all done a turn in Croydon, albeit in front of noticeably small turn-outs of party loyalists.
There is one theory doing the rounds in Katharine Street that Jason Perry is delaying the publication of the Conservatives’ Croydon manifesto to avoid his being questioned on its substance at the election hustings, which are coming up thick and fast in the coming week, with one organised by DEMOC in Park Hill this evening.
Perry has already been badly caught out over his conflicting and contradictory positions over efforts to reduce air pollution and his absolute opposition to a cycle lane in South Croydon.
“I confirm my commitment to improving our local air quality in this climate emergency, because it is of national and local importance to take the urgent actions necessary to improve our environment in Croydon,” Perry said on his campaign website. “This means tackling air pollution, as well as moving towards ending our reliance on non-renewable energy sources.”
A day later, Perry was backing a data-scraping petition opposing a move which would improve “local air quality” (there’s that word again) as well as “moving towards ending … reliance on non-renewable energy sources”. Perry’s petition drummed up prejudice against a cycle lane.
Of course, the big question Perry continues to dodge is around how he intends to manage his own, full-time personal business interests, as a plastic window frame salesman, and the more-than-full-time demands of running the council as its Mayor.
The supplementary to that question, of course, is the one about why he is on the ballot paper in South Croydon ward for re-election as a councillor. The rules won’t allow someone to be Mayor and a councillor.
So either Perry doesn’t rate his own chances of victory as Mayor at all, or he’s prepared to impose unnecessary costs of £20,000 on the “local” Council Tax-payers for the staging of an immediate ward by-election to find a replacement for him as a councillor.
Given that Perry voted through the two Labour council budgets that led to the borough going bankrupt, it probably won’t be the only blatant contradictory position adopted by any of the politicians, local or otherwise, that we are going to hear in the next four weeks.
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