With the parliamentary Conservative Party in meltdown after a month of chaos under Liz Truss, ANDREW FISHER looks at what’s next for MP Chris Philp and his potentially ‘marginal’ seat of Croydon South
The Conservative Party is disintegrating before our eyes, with the Tory government increasingly resembling a group of toddlers playing musical chairs with the Benny Hill theme tune as the musical accompaniment.
As the Liz Truss economic experiment implodes after just 44 days of her in office as Prime Minister, it looks, too, as if 12 years of Conservative rule will soon be coming to an end.
This isn’t just hubris by a Labour member, but an analysis of the cold, hard data – with some polls putting Labour as much as 36 percentage points ahead of the shambolic Conservatives.
One eye-catching data release was an MRP poll by pollster Opinium that predicted the Conservatives would be reduced to just 137 MPs – losing 228 seats at the next General Election.
MRP stands for “multi-level regression and post-stratification”, and is a technique using large scale polling data to predict how different demographics of voters will behave in different seats across the country. It was by using this method that YouGov was one of the few companies to accurately predict the outcome of the 2017 election.
Opinium’s October 2022 MRP poll suggests one of those who would lose their seat on that projection would be Croydon South’s Chris Philp – seeing the 52per cent of the vote he polled in 2019 reduced to just 35per cent as Labour edge ahead on 38per cent while Tory voters defect to the LibDems, who rise to 14%.
How plausible this is by the time of the next election is, of course, a different matter. Polls are always just a snapshot of the current moment, not a prediction for months or years ahead.
As the Tories dispose of Truss and her far-from-merry band of incompetents, could a new Conservative leader improve their standing? Even in the mid-1990s, when Labour under John Smith and then Tony Blair posted 20-point or even 30-pointleads, by polling day in 1997, Labour won by a more narrow 12.5 percentage points.
What should worry the Conservatives, though, is that the Opinium poll, on which that MRP projection was based, only had Labour leading the Conservatives by 15 points nationally: 48per cent to 33per cent.
Other surveys in recent days, by companies SavantaComres, Redfield & Wilton, Deltapoll and People Polling, have all put Labour at more than 30 points ahead – while YouGov most recently had Labour leading by 28 points.
If these polls are right, Croydon South could be lost more heavily and an array of even more surprising Labour gains could be on the cards.
But in politics, there is no substitute for actual votes. On November 3, voters in Selsdon Vale and Forestdale will go to the polls in the council by-election caused by the death of Conservative councillor Badsha Quadir.
Both Labour and the Greens (who have recently picked up council seats from the Tories across the country) are all putting in a shift in a ward that was comfortably won by the Conservatives in the local elections in May.
But much has changed since May.
Chris Philp was promoted to a top government job in the Treasury and then humiliatingly defenestrated as Chief Secretary, which will not have helped his standing locally or nationally. After the 45p tax cut for the richest 1per cent was reversed, it was briefed – by his own party colleagues – that Philp was the architect of that particular measure.
Nevertheless, Philp dutifully went out to do a media round and insist, “The rest [of the Mini-Budget] is all staying.” That lasted all of 10 days before his boss, Kwasi Kwarteng, was sacked and Jeremy Hunt took over as Chancellor, to reverse nearly all of Kwarteng and Philp’s Mini-Budget policies, and dispensing with Philp in his Treasury team, too.
One upside for Philp, though, is that the draft boundary changes – which should be in place if the General Election is held in 2024 – probably make Croydon South a slightly safer Conservative seat, by losing bits of Waddon and all of the soon-to-be contested Selsdon Vale and Forestdale ward, while gaining all of the South Croydon ward. We will know what the Boundary Commission has finally decided on November 8.
Philp won the internal selection to be Croydon South Conservative candidate in 2014, defeating future Cabinet ministers Robert Jenrick, the dodgy ex-Housing Secretary, and the recently departed, security-breaching Home Secretary Suella Braverman (née Fernandes), as well as Charlotte Vere (now Baroness Vere of Norbiton) and Lucy Frazer (now the MP for South East Cambridgeshire).
The question for Philp, and probably one facing many Conservative MPs today after the events of the last 48 hours, is whether he even wants to continue as an MP after his prominent role in the debacle of Liz Truss’s maladministration.
One person apparently not in the frame to replace Philp, should he decide to depart, is Coulsdon councillor and former Downing Street aide Mario Creatura who, it is understood, has moved to Reigate with the aim of securing the seat currently held by retiring MP Crispin Blunt.
Whether even Reigate can survive in Tory hands with the Conservative Party in meltdown is one matter.
Certainly Croydon South is worth keeping an eye on in the run-up to the next election. It could become a hotly contested marginal for the first time in its history…
- From 2015 to 2019, Andrew Fisher, pictured right, worked as the Labour Party’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 now writes regular columns for InsideCroydon in a personal capacity
Some of Andrew Fisher’s recent columns:
- #TheLabourFiles: It’s long past time to clean-up the Party
- ‘Rabbit hutch’ flats and the Chief Secretary: Philp’s conflicts
- Forde Report exposes racism, bullying and factionalism in Labour
- England’s Tories remain enthusiastic only about ground rent
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