Voters’ stark choice: scandal-hit Labour or scandal-hit Tories

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.

Hustings promises: Val Shawcross has made a series of pledges at public meetings to reverse measures implemented by her Labour council colleagues

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.

How the Evening Standard’s @Adamstoon1 sees the plight of ‘Local’ Tories

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.

Headache for Labour: independent candidate Andrew Pelling

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.

Labour gains: how the New Statesman predicted the London borough election results last week – with Croydon unchanged and Wandsworth turning red for the first time since 1978

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.

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About insidecroydon

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
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6 Responses to Voters’ stark choice: scandal-hit Labour or scandal-hit Tories

  1. Bob Bayliss says:

    I have not changed my prediction that there will be a split outcome: the Conservatives will buck the trend across London by winning back the council, while Labour will win the mayoral race.

    Six months or so ago the Conservatives would have been confident of a clean sweep in Croydon, but the national picture has turned sharply against them, and Labour chose wisely in their mayoral candidate. The “Pelling factor” may take more first-preference votes from Shawcross than from Perry, but the safety-net of the supplementary voting system means that many of his votes will surely transfer to Labour in the second count.

    Turnout is key to the result: the lower the better for the Conservatives, as it proved in the referendum on whether there should be a directly elected mayor. As I understand it, the Mayor will have the ultimate say where his/her policies are in conflict with those of the council. If the outcome I predict does happen it will be a bitter pill indeed for the Conservatives to swallow, having campaigned for so long for a mayor who is directly accountable to the people of Croydon in the face of Labour’s unprincipled preference to retain the so-called “strong leader” model which worked well for them but excluded the concerns of large swathes of voters.

  2. John Woodhouse says:

    Why does the author discount the Greens? I would never vote Tory and I have abandoned Labour.

    • Peter Underwood says:

      Because, like most Labour and Conservative commentators, Andrew is scared to mention the Greens. They know that the more people hear about the Greens the more votes we get and once people elect Greens they rarely go back to the old parties.

      We have finished third at the last few Croydon local elections and so they know we are the real threat to the stale old two party system.

  3. Lewis White says:

    Labour’s recent, outrageously unjust (and shabby to the extreme) treatment of Andrew Pelling and Jamie Audsely (deselection) seemed to be based on a distinct jealousy of their intelligence and abilities. Revenge for being better than certain dead-weight councillors??— or the instinctive behaviour of playground bullies who conduct kangaroo courts (if they could spell the word) and try their victims in an anonymous, pathetically cowardly way.

    Rather Putinesque, actually.

  4. Ralph Dent says:

    I haven’t seen Val distancing herself from the old Croydon Labour voids. Or if she has it’s way too late. Clive Fraser is still shuffling around like some old git blocking opportunity for young aspiring politicians. Ditto Fitzsimons chair of the scrutiny committee in a bankrupt council – these two at least should have be called out by Val.

    I don’t like Johnson and I’m looking forward to voting him out at the next election if it doesn’t happen before. But there’s one thing I dislike more than Johnson and Brexit is the current ridiculously out of control planning department which routinely briefs against the residents of this borough. Val’s still on the fence on this critical matter. I’m therefore voting Perry.

  5. aidan says:

    Labour – useless and inept

    Tories – lower than vermin, deserve to be in jail

    Lib Dems – Beyond hopeless

    Greens – A joke

    Someone should start the “Not An Obvious C*nt Party”.

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