Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the layer-cake solution to the future of Croydon, and Lambeth’s, parliamentary constituencies
It has been a standing joke on this website for a decade or so that former Lambeth council leader Steve Reed OBE is in fact the MP for Lambeth South. Today, the Boundary Commission made that gag a real possibility, as they published the latest version of their parliamentary constituency maps.
Croydon is to get four MPs, up from the three that it has had since 1974 – Croydon Central, Croydon South and Croydion North. The proposals as published this morning look to be good news for the Labour Party, with two seemingly safe seats and one winnable marginal, while Chris Philp’s Tory stronghold in Croydon South is probably made safer than it already was.
Now we can just grab the popcorn and sit back to watch the internal party squabbling over selections that are certain to follow, as sitting MPs decide which seat to take in a parliamentary version of musical chairs.
This might pit Blairite Reed against Streatham’s socialist MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, after the Commissioners fused together parts of Croydon North with large chunks of Lambeth to form the new, cross-borough constituency of Streatham and Norbury. Given how Reed and his chums, like David Evans, the Labour General Secretary, have been stitching up selections around the country, you can guess how that’s likely to go…
But equally, Reed might opt for Croydon West and South Norwood, thus blocking any move to a safer seat for Sarah Jones, Labour’s MP for Croydon Central since 2017.
Senior Labour sources suggest that 13 years after being thwarted by Chuka Umunna in the contest to be Labour’s candidate for Streatham, then his home constituency, Reed no longer fancies his chances there. “The membership is too unreliable,” was the suggestion, whatever that is meant to mean.
That could see Reed opt instead to be nominated for the newly configured Croydon West and South Norwood constituency, a likely Labour safe seat made up of wards taken from all three existing Croydon parliamentary seats.
Also facing tough choices is Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, some of which will now form the new Croydon East seat. Jones lives within that constituency, and her party officials may insist that this should be where she stands at the next General Election.
The Commissioners have presented Jones with a dilemma and a conundrum. For while Croydon East includes Shirley and Selsdon, other Tory-voting areas such as Park Hill and the Whitgift Estate have been removed from the revised constituency, while most of Labour-voting Woodside has been added. Early calculations reckon that could be worth around 3,000 votes for Labour come an election.
In truth, and because of council ward changes since 2018, what’s presented is a bit of a mess, with Croydon town centre now scattered to the winds with Park Hill to Croydon South, Fairfield to Croydon West and South Norwood, and Addiscombe West to Croydon East.
“The Woodside polling district that’s cut away from new Croydon East creates a ridiculous boundary down the Portland Road,” said one local party official. “It’s a nonsense to suggest that Park Hill is in Croydon South, though Whitgift Estate residents will like being in this Conservative constituency.
“This is a layer cake solution, with four bands going across the borough, but it creates some real oddities.”
Overall, the Commissioners’ proposals will see there still being 650 MPs at Westminster, with the aim of there being at least 69,724 electors in each constituency, and no more than 77,062. So while Wales and Scotland lose representatives, England will now have 543 MPs.
London is to have 75 MPs under these proposals; only three existing constituencies in the capital remain wholly unchanged. One of these is Islington North…
This is the third version of proposals that have been put out for consultation. Referring to the version published in the summer of 2021, the Commissioners said today, “We have revised the composition of all 16 initially proposed constituencies in the boroughs of Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond upon Thames (south), and Southwark.
“We have retained the initial proposals for Sutton and Wandsworth.”
Basically, Sutton’s two constituencies – Carshalton and Wallington and Sutton and Cheam – are to be no more than tweaked, “unchanged from the existing constituencies”, the Commissioners say, “except for minor realignment with prospective local government ward boundaries”.
“In South East London, we have revised the composition of two of the initially proposed constituencies in the borough of Bromley, and split a ward in the south of the borough.”
The proposals are out for consultation once more, though this time for just four weeks.
One way of looking at the newly drawn Croydon seats is to look at the number of councillors by party in each of them.
The new Croydon South has only Tory councillors, 19 of them. The move of Waddon to Croydon West and South Norwood removes a core bloc of Labour voters.
Croydon West and South Norwood seat has 17 Labour councillors plus three Labour in the one polling district in Woodside. There’s just one Tory councillor in Waddon and two Greens in the town centre Fairfield ward. This is a safe Labour seat.
Croydon East’s make-up reflects how Labour have got into difficulties in its old stronghold in New Addington. The constituency includes the Selsdon Vale and Forestdale ward where Labour was last week beaten into third place, the damage to the party’s reputation caused by the council’s collapse being hard-felt. There are 13 Conservative councillors in this constituency area and five Labour, plus the five polling districts of Woodside.
Liberal Democrats will be intrigued by the new Streatham and Norbury seat, where they have a Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood councillor in Croydon and two councillors on Lambeth council in the two polling districts of Streatham Hill and Thornton.
Streatham also has two Green councillors. There are, though, 14 Labour councillors plus two Labour councillors in just one polling district. There are also three Labour councillors in a tiny part of Clapham Park ward that is also in the constituency, a ward that includes former Croydon councillor Martin Tiedemann.
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