In his latest column for Inside Croydon, ANDREW FISHER, looks ahead to the most intriguing contest in London’s local elections this year
Labour mayoral candidate Val Shawcross has made no attempt to hide her frustration, at times bordering on contempt, for the Labour administration in Katharine Street of the past four years.
At a recent hustings, Shawcross said she was “embarrassed” by it and promised, “I’m here to reset it”, emphasising her determination to restore several services cut by the Labour council, including the graffiti removal team.
In light of the scandalous treatment of council tenants in flats at Regina Road in South Norwood, Shawcross has also committed that, “Croydon should compensate tenants when repairs are not carried out in time or to a good standard.”
It’s about time that council tenants in Croydon got a better deal – especially in a year when their rent has increased by more than average incomes. Shawcross’s straight-talking has definitely impressed some voters otherwise sceptical of Labour in Croydon.
London is increasingly becoming a Labour city – with Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan in his second term, Labour holding around two-thirds of the city’s parliamentary seats and controlling most of the capital’s councils. Current London polling puts Labour anywhere between 25 to 30 points ahead of the Conservatives.
In Croydon, Labour has held the council since 2014 and at the 2019 General Election comfortably held the once marginal Croydon Central seat, with Sarah Jones MP increasing her majority.
However, in the delayed 2021 London mayoral contest, the Conservative vote in Croydon outstripped Labour’s – with higher turnout in the south of the borough overcoming Labour support in the north and centre of the borough.
Croydon represents the Conservatives’ No1, and probably only, viable local election target in the capital. And yet thanks to the increasing toxicity of the national party, Cabinet ministers have made no high-profile visits to Croydon to endorse their mayoral candidate. This is in sharp contrast to Labour, which has had Sadiq Khan, party leader Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner and several others visit Croydon to back Shawcross.
The Conservatives are running as “Local Conservatives” in an effort to emphasise their distance from the sleaze and corruption-riddled cabal in Westminster – clearly, without saying it, “embarrassed” by Boris Johnson and his increasingly scandal-plagued MPs.
Conservative mayoral candidate Jason Perry, a councillor since the 1990s, has seemingly only had one message throughout the campaign, which is that Labour is crap. Voting for Perry would, he claims, be a “vote for change”, which is odd since Perry whipped his fellow Conservative councillors to vote for the Labour council’s budgets that he now says bankrupted the council.
Experienced Croydon politician Andrew Pelling – a former MP, London Assembly, and councillor (at times Conservative, Labour and now independent once again) – brings the only serious, but still an outside, threat to the two-party duopoly.
Without a party machine behind him, he faces a huge challenge reaching enough voters in a borough-wide contest. His claim that, “I work for you not a party” is also a result of having been suspended from both the major parties in his time.
If Pelling is a headache for Labour, it is one of their own making.
Early in the campaign, those then in power locally seemed determined to exorcise any demons who dared criticise the Labour council’s multiple failings. At the start of the year Pelling was, let’s not forget, a Labour councillor in Waddon ward, having taken the council seat for Labour in 2014 alongside Joy Prince and Robert Canning (neither of of whom are standing again). Pelling was reselected as a candidate by Labour members in Waddon, before an opaque internal Labour Party process removed him.
Alongside his mayoral bid, Pelling is also standing to be a councillor in Waddon once again, and it will be interesting to see how he performs against Labour’s three official candidates and indeed the Conservatives, who were a close second in the ward.
Through a combination of retirements and deselections by members (and the dubious purging of Pelling and Jamie Audsley), Labour is fielding a team comprised of 70per cent new candidates in 2022, which helps frontrunner Shawcross emphasise her “new direction” message.
Despite Pelling’s best efforts, the mayoral result in Croydon is likely to come down to which of the Conservatives nationally or the outgoing Labour council have upset people more.
It seems unlikely that the democratically elected Mayor contest will boost turnout – which will be another thing to watch for on Friday as the results trickle through from the count being held in Trinity School.
The remaining mayoral candidates are a combination of also-rans (the sub-plot of the likely battle for fourth between LibDems and Greens) and descending levels of joke candidates whose £500 deposits will generously contribute to Croydon’s much-depleted coffers.
Whoever triumphs, it will be a new era for Croydon – with an elected Mayor running the council. In the days following, our newly elected Mayor will appoint a deputy mayor and a cabinet of anywhere between two and nine councillors.
With power centralised even further than under the old “strong leader” system, it will be more important than ever that Croydon’s people and its local media hold the new Mayor and their appointees to account.
Vote wisely from 7am on Thursday.
- South Norwood resident Andrew Fisher, pictured right, has worked as a trades union official, researcher and writer, and from 2015 to 2019 as Labour’s Director of Policy under Jeremy Corbyn. He is the chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party. Fisher is also the author of The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works, and in a personal capacity now writes regular columns for InsideCroydon.com
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- For the official list of council election candidates, by ward, click here
- For our report on the eight candidates for Croydon Mayor, click here
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