Stumped on the stump: candidates caught out over 2nd choice

It has been said that politics is a form of performance art… so using a stage in The Wreck for election hustings last night was quite appropriate. But it was one question that stole the show

It was the first question from the audience that had the Mayoral candidates at sixes and sevens in yesterday’s Croydon BID hustings.

“How were the candidates going to use their second preferences?” some bright spark asked.

Voters have two votes in the Croydon Mayoral election. A first choice and a second choice.

It’s not complicated: but have you though carefully about how to use your first choice vote?

It is the same system of voting that has been used to elect a London Mayor since 2000.

First choice votes are counted and if no single candidate has achieved 50per cent or more of the vote, then the top two candidates go into a second round of counting.

In this second round, the second choice votes for those two remaining candidates are added for the final vote tally.

So, assuming that each of the eight candidates for Mayor intends to vote for themselves as their first choice – although who knows what Winston McKenzie might do in the privacy of his own polling booth – but it was a subtle prod to the Mayoral wannabes, at the end of a longish campaign, to discover who has impressed them most while out on the stump.

As is the way of hustings, the order of response was strictly controlled. Peter Underwood, of the Greens, had to go first, and he resolutely refused to answer, claiming the secrecy of the polling booth. Which was a bit of a cop out.

Underwood could not risk either associating with the damaged Croydon Labour brand nor risk alienating the Labour vote by endorsing another non-Labour candidate. In the last couple of weeks at hustings, Underwood has coyly stepped back from attacking Labour.

Comfortable: Val Shawcross was able to state her second preference

Labour’s Val Shawcross said she might use her second preference vote for either the Liberal Democrats or the Greens, reaching out to other left-of-centre voters whom she wants to transfer to her with their second preferences. And safe in the knowledge that neither the LibDem nor Green second preferences will ever get counted, because their candidates won’t survive into the second round.

“Local Conservative” Jason Perry, somewhat oafishly, said we will not use his second vote.

Andrew Pelling, the independent candidate, was the first to give a straight answer.

He was using his second vote for the Liberal Democrat Richard Howard.

Harking back to those heady days before covid, before austerity and before the coalition government, when election candidates would appear on TV debates and breezily say, “I agree with Nick”, Pelling has been saying at this year’s Croydon hustings, “I agree with Rick”. About as close to an in-joke for a south London council election as anyone is likely to get.

And so it was that Pelling said the Army Major (retired) would get his second choice vote, because he welcomed a challenge from the ranks, unlike Labour in Croydon.

Doctor in the house: Winston McKenzie

Farah London said only god would know of her second preference. At the moment, only god can tell us whether London is actually on the electoral register in Croydon and able to have a vote – most of her election appearances have been on a balcony, Evita-like, but in her case overlooking Tower Bridge and not Buenos Aires.

Winston McKenzie said, with some reluctance, that he was voting for Pelling. Pelling laughed: reluctant votes have the same value as enthusiastic ones.

And LibDem Howard gave a gushing endorsement of Pelling as a candidate of integrity who had stood out as a whistleblower at the council.

The thing is, as Pelling well knows, second-preference votes are of little use to his Mayoral prospects, which require those who want to throw off the shackles of the Croydon political duopoly to give him their first-choice vote and hope enough others do the same.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Pelling, Jason Perry, Peter Underwood, Richard Howard, Val Shawcross, Winston McKenzie and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Stumped on the stump: candidates caught out over 2nd choice

  1. Chris Flynn says:

    “In this second round, the second choice votes* for those two remaining candidates are added for the final vote tally.”

    * on the ballot papers of the eliminated candidates – i.e. your 2nd choice only counts if your 1st choice wasn’t in the top 2.

    X+Y is not the same as Y+X – the order matters!

  2. Peter Underwood says:

    I haven’t “stepped back from attacking Labour”. I have never seen the point of wasting all of my time at debates just pointing out how dreadful the other parties are. There are other candidates who say little else apart from how awful Labour have been. I prefer to spend my time at these events explaining how much better Croydon could be if there was a Green mayor.

    That’s why I wouldn’t give a recommendation to anyone about how they use their second vote. Second votes are for second best. I just want people focus on a fresh Green start for Croydon and that means voting for me as their first choice for Mayor.

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