Monday, May 26, 2014

Reflections on the local election in the style of a chess game

When two tribes goto handshake
The resignation

At sometime between 7:30am and 8:30am on 23rd May, halfway along one side of one of the sports halls [near Heathfield counting station] in Trinity School, Tory leader, Councillor Mike Fisher, conceded defeat to Labour leader Tony Newman and knocked over his king. It happened all of a sudden and I just happened to be facing in the direction where the handshake took place with hardly anyone else watching. Addiscombe Green Party candidate, Esther Sutton, who was also facing the same direction, was a little taken aback by the civility and mutual appreciation that was quietly being displayed.

Publicly these Grandmasters in Croydon are always at each others throats in the council chamber. Privately, they know each is leader of their pawns and territory, and both know that control of the council comes in cycles. Speaking to Tories at the Count, the postal votes, opened before the election day, seemed to be pointing to the present incumbents hanging on for another term, but that didn't materialise.

Raj Mehta and I appear in view at the count in Croydon in this BBC video - from election night

Full results here on Croydon council web site.

Our 70 candidates polled a fantastic 23,926 votes in total. Based on popular votes (using average vote) in Croydon:
  • LABOUR                   37%
  • CONSERVATIVE     34.3%
  • UKIP                         19.5%
  • GREEN                       8.2% - up from 6.5%
  • LIB DEMS                 5.6%
  • OTHERS                    1.9%

Board position at the end of the game.

The board

Apart from the estates in New Addington and Fieldway, the battlegrounds are the squares (wards) at the centre of the board. Ashburton and  Waddon changed hands and the game was won. Labour also held onto Addiscombe.

Green party attempt to introduce a new colour on to the chessboard.

Once again we competed for all 70 seats in the 24 wards. Four years ago we targeted Bensham Manor ward in an attempt to make the breakthrough. This time around we had a look at Croham. On election night I was interviewed by Bieneosa for Croydon Radio.  We talked about 'the opening' that could have got us our first councillors.  - my piece is at 2mins 8 secs.

Other colours receive more playing time

Circulating on twitter at the moment is this mock revision of the BBC logo. It's in the colours of UKIP. UKIP received unprecedented coverage during this election, even on the BBC. On talk radio stations, such as LBC, the moment UKIP are mentioned, presenters such as Nick Abbot say, "Oh look the switchboard has lit up again". 

I am sure voters would have elected Greens up and down the country, and in Croham, if we had similar coverage to UKIP. A petition has started regarding the "media blackout of the Green Party on BBC" - our public service broadcaster.

We ran a doorstep survey in Croham in the summer of 2012, and the results indicated that 2/3 of voters in the polling district we assessed said they would consider voting Green. With similar coverage on TV, could we not have converted those 'considers'??

Television is such a powerful medium, the volume of media hits is bound to trigger a change. Cognitive dissonance theory can only go so far, especially if the voter feels powerless to be able to change what his happening around them. Many that voted UKIP have always been expressing bigoted views in the comfort of their living room. Prior to the onset of "political correctness" [an easy catch-all term], these views were acceptable in the workplace and well......everywhere. It is not surprising that the archetypal UKIP voter is an English 50+ male who may recall those apparent halcyon days when one could speak ones mind*. An Able-Bodied, White English, 50+ male sits at the top of the tree in terms of not being categorised as a minority by any social index. However, immigration and political correctness has eroded his status. UKIP has given him a voice again.

The other thing that Farage has apparently the ability to do, is speak his mind*. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are skilled at not saying anything.

Green Party pieces that developed into big players

One of the UKIP personalities that was getting a lot of attention was my dear old adversary Winston McKenzie. His UKIP carnival in Croydon hit the headlines. 

Screen photo from BBC web site entitled, 'McKenzie finishes behind Green'
The BBC posted on their live updates that despite Winston's coverage in the media, he was beaten by two of our three Greens (Graham Jones and Andy Ellis) in South Norwood ward.

Unlike four years ago, this time Greens were continually being asked to attend hustings and radio programmes. This was a little unexpected, and I am so proud of all our candidates who represented Croydon Green Party. Many of them came to the Count. The photo below was taken at 7am. We all look surprisingly good, despite being up all night. Indeed, a little earlier when most of us were sitting in the canteen waiting for the results to be announced, Tom Black @ The Croydon Citizen tweeted:

"Ranking of how cool all the groups look sat at their tables: 1. Greens 2. Lib Dems 3. Labour 4. Tories (narrowly behind Lab) 5. UKIP 6. BNP"

"Cool Greens" at the Count

Here are some pictures taken at hustings - the Green is always identifiable because nearly always they are on the left (!) or with a Green rosette.

Les Kenny-Green at South Norwood hustings
Jay Ginn at Coulsdon East hustings

Pravina Ellis at Broad Green ward hustings
Tracey Hague at Croydon Decides (pic of Croydon Advertiser spread)
Raj Metha at Norbury ward hustings

Tracey performed excellently at Croydon Decides organised by the Croydon Advertiser as well as two hustings in Coulsdon, and I enjoyed myself at the NUT Hustings. In fact, all those that took part in hustings did our local party proud.

Additionally, Grace Onions, Tim Eveleigh and I took part in debates on Croydon Radio.

Martyn Post and Gordon Ross manoeuvred the pieces during the middle game with regards to the leafleting - and big thanks to all that helped. Once again I give kingsize thanks to Election Agent Bernice Golberg for ensuring the notation was all correct and that we didn't fall into time trouble or contravene the rules of play.

I must also thank Elaine Garrod, for her wonderful design work. Her 'cheque flyer artwork' ensured our idea had great impact. The content caused a real stir on twitter.

Along with others, local Tory activist Anne Giles at first attempted to defend the £348,000 remuneration for the three Croham councillors but then resorted to celebrate it!
At the Count, a senior Labour councillor advised me who the hard-working Tories on the council were: Dudley and Margaret Mead. According to him, Croham Councillor Jason Perry works/worked half a day week for his £43,000 a year. If we assume this is a Labour exaggeration, whatever the hours per week Councillor Perry spends on council business, HE IS VERY WELL REMUNERATED, especially when most voters presume councillors receive expenses only.

Finally, residents in Barking & Dagenham and Newham councils woke up on Friday morning with no official opposition. Every councillor elected was Labour. This is terrible for democracy. For example, only opposition members can table a motion. This can't be done now. Where will the scrutiny come from? Each side of the chamber backs the same colour to win. Those residents have elected totalitarian or walkover councils. I'd even vote Conservative or Labour if it meant that at least there were some opposition councillors on Croydon council.

Islington and Lewisham, similarly could have ended up totalitarian. Thankfully each elected one councillor other than Labour....a Green.

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