Our political correspondent, WALTER CRONXITE, on an extraordinary turn in the local by-election campaign over Conservative proposals to make it even easier for their developer chums to concrete over the Green Belt
Tory sleaze is in full flow in the council by-election campaign, with the borough’s part-time Mayor, Jason Perry, accused of lying to the voters.
Residents in Selsdon Vale and Forestdale go to the polls this Thursday for a council by-election caused by the death of Conservative councillor Badsha Quadir. The outcome of the by-election won’t change the way the Town Hall is run – Perry will remain the Mayor and the Tories, if they hang on to the seat, will still not have a majority of councillors.
But the country is in Conservative-created chaos after months of dither and uncertainty which has seen three different Prime Ministers in eight weeks, a financial crisis that was created in Downing Street, and with Liz Truss and Suella Braverman mired in on-going scandals.
Now it appears that in Croydon, the Tories’ local leader either does understand his own party’s policies, or he is a blatant liar.
Perry appeared in a Halloween video nasty on social media this morning, clearly rattled because the backwash from the Tories’ national meltdown is deterring Selsdon voters from voting for Fatima Zaman, who the Tories claim is the “local mum” standing in the by-election. Zaman actually lives in Addington Village.
In his video, panicked Perry has turned on the Greens – possibly the first time that Croydon’s political duopoly has been forced into negative campaigning against a third party.
But in doing so, Perry has also unwittingly also taken on the RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the National Trust, who have all declared Conservative policies on Investment Zones to be an “attack on nature”.
Perry calls this “utter nonsense”.
Perry clearly didn’t bother to listen to Michael Gove, one of his crisis-hit party’s leaders, as the minister did the round of broadcast media yesterday to double-down on 2019 manifesto pledges to increase the volume of homes being built – including the possibility of concreting over Green Belt land, as well as the recent decision to introduce “Investment Zones”.
Tory investment zones will potentially cover huge parts of the country, and that includes Croydon. The Tories say that the zones will be “liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development”. In other words, getting rid of the planning protections to make it cheaper for developers – many of whom are Tory Party donors – to build on green spaces.
This “utter nonsense”, to quote part-time Perry, is all on the government website, under the heading “The Growth Plan 2022: Investment Zones factsheet”. It was published as recently as September 23 – the day of KamiKwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous Mini-Budget in which Croydon Tory MP Chris Philp played such a significant part.
Perhaps Croydon’s £81,000 per year Mayor hasn’t bothered to read what it says.
“Where will they be?” the Tory policy fact sheet says. “We are in discussions with 38 local authorities to establish investment zones in England…”. Those 38 include the Greater London Authority – and so therefore Croydon.
“How will they work?” They say that investment zones “will benefit from lower taxes” and also “Accelerated development – there will be designated development sites to both release more land for housing and commercial development… The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.” Our italics. For the benefit of part-time Perry.
“When will they be set up?: The Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will shortly set out the selection criteria to become an Investment Zone, and the process for designating sites within it,” the official website says.
The Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is, once again, Michael Gove.
In Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, Tory activists have been stuffing leaflets through letterboxes claiming that, “Local Conservatives will never…“, their emphasis, “… allow Selsdon’s green spaces to be concreted over.” Which puts Croydon Tories entirely at odds with Gove and their national Conservative Party policy.
For Labour, Sean Fitzsimons, one of the Newman Numpties who bankrupted the borough, today responded to Perry’s video by calling it, “an absolute lie and desperate claim”.
Fitzsimons said, “You should be ashamed to make such a blatantly untrue statement.
In the last 20 years the only party to approve housing on Green Belt in Croydon was the Tories at Cane Hill.”
It was noticeable over the last weekend before polling day, from the gormless selfies posted on social media by the parties contesting the by-election, that the numbers out campaigning for the Greens very nearly matched the groups of Tories and Labour, and the word on Selsdon high street is that candidate Peter Underwood and his supporters have been actively campaigning more often.
The Conservatives got 65per cent of the vote in Selsdon Vale and Forestdale ward in May. Even with the biggest of recent opinion poll swings against them, following the various scandals and blunders of their colleagues at Westminster, they might be expected to get 50per cent of the vote this Thursday.
But panicked Perry’s video nasty suggests that Croydon Tories are worried. With the council’s reputation in tatters because of the previous Labour administration, traditional Labour voters and lifelong Tories horrified by the antics of Johnson, Truss & Co have been turning to the Greens.
“Conservative voters are swinging behind Peter because the Tory candidate has been disingenuous,” one Green activist told Inside Croydon. “Some might say they’re lying on her leaflet.
“It’s a bad-taste joke that part-time Perry can even consider claiming to be greener than Green Peter Underwood, especially with the concrete policies of the Conservatives.
“No last-minute denials can hide the Conservative plan for an ‘investment zone’ for Croydon, which will rip up planning regulations. The result in this by-election will be crucial for the people of Selsdon Vale and Forestdale.”
The Greens are too polite, and politically savvy, to say it out loud, but in a borough where people remember all too well the damage caused by Labour, their candidate now represents the voice of reason and a real alternative for anyone wary of putting their trust in anything that is said by members of the same party as Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Chris Philp.
Read more: Tories pose real threat to Selsdon Vale with ‘attack on nature’
Read more: ‘Expunge’: Labour candidate backs Mayor’s Power Rangers
Read more: A bad week for Tory MP just got very much worse for Croydon
Read more: Croydon’s top Tory Barwell admits: I am politically homeless
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