Voters being taken for granted as ‘battleground’ moves south

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Voters being taken for granted as ‘battleground’ moves south - Inside Croydon

As postal voters start to receive their ballot papers ahead of the General Election on July 4, others in parts of Croydon are beginning to feel that their votes are being taken for granted by Tories and Labour, as our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, explains

Without wanting to be too Orwellian, all voters are equal but some voters are more equal than others.

It’s often said that you only see a politician at election time. But in Croydon in 2024, even this seems to be another election untruth for many Croydon voters, who are asking: “Where are those leaflets?” “Where are those party activists?” “Where are the candidates?”

The political parties might say that they want your vote, but residents reckon that in most of Croydon, not much effort is being taken to win that vote. At the halfway stage in the 2024 General Election campaign, and by and large, Croydon’s voters are being taken for granted.

Croydon now has four parliamentary constituencies – Croydon East, Croydon South, Croydon West and a bit of Streatham and Croydon North. In two of those areas – West and North – despite all of the main parties claiming that they are fighting for every vote, there’s been little or no campaign activity.

“I’ve received my polling card but diddly squat from any of the candidates” one postal voter in Croydon West told us.

“I’ve had no leaflets through my door and nobody has called round to ask me how I’ll be voting” said another. “I can only assume none of the candidates standing in Croydon West actually want my vote.”

A more cynical voter in the north of the borough summed things up: “Streatham and Croydon North is a very safe Labour seat just like the old Croydon North seat was. Steve Reed and Labour hold the voters in contempt – they take it for granted they will win here on July 4. The Conservatives, meanwhile, don’t waste their time or money campaigning in a seat they know they’ll never win.”

Anyone who is politically savvy knows that at every election, all the political parties focus on so-called “battleground” or marginal seats, focusing in particular on the swing voters in these constituencies who will determine the outcome of the election.

For Labour in this election, that’s Croydon South. For the Tories, that is Croydon South. For the LibDems, that’s the seats in Sutton. And the Greens declared in their party political broadcasts that they are really only trying to win in four seats, none of them in Croydon.

A resident in Waddon ward, which has been moved from Croydon South into Croydon West following boundary changes, told us: “To date, the only election literature I’ve received is a Conservative leaflet which introduced their prospective parliamentary candidate.

“His pledges were to hold regular surgeries, restore pride in the community and protect green spaces. It’s as if he’s standing for election to a parish council.

“There was absolutely nothing on key national issues such as the Cost of Living Crisis created by Liz Truss, or reducing NHS waiting lists, tackling the housing shortage or stopping illegal immigration.

“I can only assume it was drafted before the general election was called. Then again, perhaps it’s all the Conservatives have got to offer voters in Croydon West after 14 years of Tory failure. Either way, the leaflet was so poor they may as well not have bothered.” Although that’s probably true in 95% of election leaflet cases…

The experience of Labour taking voters for granted in constituencies like Croydon West or Streatham and Croydon North is being replicated in numerous “safe” Labour seats up and down the country.

A Labour source told Inside Croydon that the party expects to win every seat currently held by the Tories with a majority of 3,000 or less. It also expects to retain all of the seats it currently holds with virtually zero work.

Our source declined to comment on whether this includes Islington North, where former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is standing for re-election as an independent and is odds-on with bookies to win. Or in Rochdale, where incumbent George Galloway is seeking re-election as the Workers Party candidate and where the result appears to be too close to call.

Despite a 20% lead in the opinion polls, the Labour Party locally is taking nothing for granted in Croydon East, given this seat’s previous history as a marginal constituency and the risk of “the Croydon effect”, lingering anti-Labour sentiment following the council’s bankruptcy in 2020 under Tony Newman.

Natasha Irons, Labour’s candidate, seems confident enough of being the new constituency’s first MP: she’s already resigned as a councillor in Merton.

Irons has been putting in the legwork to engage with voters and to raise her profile, which in Croydon is pretty much subterranean.

Even so, the number of canvassing sessions and the number of party activists joining her on the doorstep is very small compared to the 2017 general election.

At that election, Sarah Jones won what was Croydon Central for Labour with the help of hundreds of Corbyn-supporting Momentum members and retained it in 2019 with an increased majority. In 2024, local sources suggest that party membership is just half of what it was five years ago.

Most of Labour’s canvassers this time around in Croydon East are Labour councillors or wannabe councillors, rather than grassroots members.

Croydon’s councillors clearly do not have enough work to do at the council these days. They have been out and about electioneering since the start of March, and the London election campaign.

The same holds true for the Conservative party’s canvassers – lots of councillors doing their “bit” to try to help “Congo” Chris Philp in Croydon South. Based on the numbers of Tories turning out in Croydon East, it is reasonable to conclude that they have already given up on winning this seat. The Conservative candidate in Croydon East is Jason Cummings, the council cabinet member for finance who has put up your Council Tax by 21% since 2023.

Unlike Irons, Cummings has not resigned as a councillor. Read into that what you will.

Bookmakers are currently offering 10-1 (stake £1 to win £10) on Cummings to win in Croydon East, although our advice to our loyal reader is not to throw your money away by betting on them to win.

According to one of the plethora of tactical voting websites that have sprung up, in Croydon East you can “vote with your heart”: Labour are so certain of winning, there’s no need of playing games with the first-past-the-post voting system.

In Croydon South, “Congo” Chris is in a fight for political survival. Philp was comfortably re-elected in 2019 with a majority of 12,000, but this time around both Labour and the Conservatives are throwing the political kitchen sink at this constituency.

Ever since the election was called, large numbers of Labour activists have descended on Croydon South from across London to canvass voters and deliver election literature. Opinion polls, and the bookmakers, are predicting a historic Labour win.

So this once true-blue bit of suburbia is a 2024 election “battleground” seat. Expect a knock on the door and leaflets through your letterbox if you live in South Croydon, Purley, Kenley or Coulsdon… but expect zero contact if you live in the west or north of the borough.

As a very wise man once said, all voters are equal but some voters are more equal than others.

HUSTINGS UPDATE: One of the election hustings organised for later this week, the Croydon TUC event in Ruskin House on June 20, has been postponed (in part, at least, to allow Croydon East candidates to attend the event in their constituency on the same evening). We hope to publish more details as we get them.

For more information on where to vote on July 4 and for the full list of who is standing for election in your constituency, use our widget here:

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