Friday, May 22, 2015

Analysis of #GE2015 vote in Croydon

This is the election that the Green Party moved from being a party described as an 'Other', to a party that has become a genuine threat to the established Westminister cabal. Credit must be given to Natalie Bennett for moving the Green Party away from the single issue identity that has limited our electabilty.

Results in Croydon:

Croydon North (62% turnout)

REED, Steve          LABOUR - 33,513 (62.6%)
MOHAN, Vidhi        CONSERVATIVE - 12,149 (22.7%)
MCKENZIE, W       UKIP - 2899 (5.4%)
KHAN, Shasha     GREEN - 2515 (4.7%) - Up from 2% in 2010
CORBIN, Joanna   LIBDEM - 1919 (3.6%)
HART, Glen           TUSC - 261 (0.5%)
BERKS, Lee           IND - 141 (0.3%)
STEVENSON, B    COMMUNIST - 125 (0.2%)

Croydon Central (68 % turnout)

BARWELL, G        CONSERVATIVE - 22,753 (43%)
JONES, Sarah       LABOUR - 22588 (42.7%)
STAVELEY, P       UKIP - 4810 (9.1%)
SUTTON, Esther  GREEN - 1454 (2.7%) - Up from 1.1% in 2010
FEARNLEY, J        LIB DEM - 1152 (2.2%)
ASHLEY, April       TUSC - 127 (0.2%)

Croydon South (70% turnout)

PHILP, Chris         CONSERVATIVE - 31,448 (54.5%)
BENN, Emily         LABOUR - 14,308 (24.8%)
GARNER, K          UKIP - 6068 (10.5%)
HICKSON, Gill      LIB DEM - 3348 (6%)
UNDERWOOD,P GREEN - 2154 (3.7%) - Up from 1.7% in 2010
SAMUEL, Mark     PUTTING CROYDON FIRST! - 221 (0.4%)
BIGGER, J            CLASS WAR - 65 (0.1%)

All three of us Green candidates more than doubled our share of the vote. Labour candidates blamed Greens for their defeat in Croydon Central. The delightful Steve Reed tweeted:

Labour lost #CroydonCentral by 167 votes. 1545 people voted Green. So voting "progressively" for the Greens let the Tory in. 

It should be noted over and over again that Steve Reed is not progressive. He is indistinguishable to a standard Tory as this article on Inside Croydon explains.

Who are you calling geeky?

Our nation appears to have moved ever more to the right, hovering around the new Conservative position on the political spectrum. Labour took a Tory lite manifesto to the nation and still failed to win! History will show that Ed Miliband was too geeky, the electorate were worried that Labour needed the SNP to form a coalition, and the Conservatives somehow managed to conjure the idea that the economy works for everyone when one million use food banks.

I think the best way to analyse the election is to highlight the voters themselves. In each instance the conversation says it all:

The Green voter

Stall outside Sainsburys at Crystal Palace with Paula and Camillia. 

I met young Jade outside Sainsburys in Crystal Palace on the final Saturday before the election. She came to our stall. She explained that she couldn't decide whether to vote Labour or Green because her priority was to not let the Conservative in. Like so many, she was under the impression that the polls nationally probably mirrored the Croydon North constituency. I was at pains to explain to her that Labour had a 16,000 majority and that she lived in one of the safest Labour seats in the country.

However, she was still worried about the potential result. To someone who doesn't know the size of the constituency, how would one know if 16,000 was contextually a small number? I asked her to follow me on twitter so I could give her live updates from 10pm at the Count detaling the size of the Labour win, but she wasn't on twitter. At the end I took her mobile number and promised to text her updates from the Count!

The next day I texted her the results from the Selhurst by-election, adding I expected "the result in Croydon North to be a similar ratio". I didn't get a reply

I should have realised that texting her live from the Count would have been one extra thing to do too far. I only remembered to text her on Friday evening.

Thankfully she replied:

Hi yes me and my mum voted green. I unfortunately caught Cameron walking back into number 10 this morning. I know Steve reed won croydon north.

The Labour voter (in fact two Labour voters)

At 6pm on Election Day (7th May), donned with a rosette, I was greeting commuters outside Selhurst station when I met a young middle class professional couple exiting the station using the front entrance. They both approached me to say they had voted Labour in the morning, they would have voted Green but the risk of a Tory MP and government was too great. 

They started walking off towards the bus stop when I asked them, "Are you in favour of the privatsation of the NHS?" They turned back and both replied of course not. They walked back up to me. I showed them a transcript from BBC Newsnight where Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham states the private sector has a "supporting role" to play. I then explained that the Labour candidate is not the Labour candidate everyone thinks he is. He has co-written a paper championing the opening up of all public services to the private sector. The couple were shocked. I then went on to say that the Tory candidate is never going to get in, Steve Reed has a 16,000 majority. The faces of the couple dropped. She was first to speak. "We didn't know that, had we known we would have voted Green. We only moved to the area 6 months ago, and we assumed it was quite a mixed constituency." 

I could see a bus was now approaching in the distance. The young man spoke up to say their bus was coming. I then said I could tweet them an article detailing what I had just explained. The young lady gave me her twitter handle, her name was Lucy. The bus was now almost at the bus stop but they were keen to read the article. Frantically, I found Lucy on twitter using my phone and followed her. I said I would tweet her the article as they both rushed off to catch the bus which was still at the stop due to the volume of passengers boarding. I tweeted them the Inside Croydon article  as they got on the bus.

They must have read the article because 5 minutes later I got a tweet from Lucy saying:

Thanks. Next time....Good Luck. 

The Tory voter

Again outside Selhurst station, I met a slim fit suited, well groomed gentleman in his early 30s. He initially blanked me as he exited the station with the latest throng of commuters arriving from London Victoria. He was waiting for lift. A couple of minutes had passed by where we were the only ones outside the station. I went up to him to hand an A5 leaflet. Usually, Tories don't give away their voting intention, this one did straight away. "I am voting Conservative." He then told me, "you're not getting elected, this is a safe Labour seat." I asked him why he was voting Conservative? His reply was to do with the economy. He was particularly anxious about Ed Balls being in charge of the Exchequer. The economy was safe in the hands of Osborne and to him it was working.

 The Non Voter (in fact five non voters)

Stall outside Croydon mosque

For the first time ever, I ran a campaign table outside Croydon mosque. It will now be remembered as the trigger for the clash between Steve Reed MP and me over his tweet about the Gaza shelling by Israel.  

I walked along Dunheved Road handing out leaflets after friday prayers (Jummah). As is common, many of the congregation were catching up with friends outside the mosque. I approached five lads aged around 18-21. 

"Are you voting in the election?"

They all laughed.

"Nah mate." one said.

"I am the Green party candidate for this constituency?"

"What's that Labour?" one queried genuinely. [This happens a lot]

"No, Green Party"

Queue more laughter.

"What weed?"

"Yes we want to legalise weed"

Roars of laughter.

One of the five seemed to be more switched on than the others, said, "What's that other party, UKIP?"

"No I'm Green party." I gave them each an A5 flyer.

The main guy of the group, scanned the policies and with air of disbelief, said

"Boy, £10 per hour minimum wage." He definitely liked this policy.

I briefly started to talk about poverty wages and then I noticed their eyes were glazing over. I should have realised from the start that these guys viewed campaigners and the political class as rocks from another planet. They were totally disinterested in the political process. Moreover, voting was somehow viewed geeky and uncool.

The Lib Dem voter

I canvassed Dixon Road in South Norwood. After a series of Labour doors, I started to adapt my initial pitch by saying, "I assume you are a Labour voter, 62 per cent of voters in Croydon North vote Labour, even more in this street." One lady answered her door and to my surprise she said, "No I don't vote Labour."

"Are you Conservative voter?"


"Are you a UKIP voter?"


"You're not a Green are you, because I'm hoping you'd have told me by now?


"Oh, you're Lib Dem." [exclaimed in genuine shock] 


We talked about the incinerator  and privatising the NHS but she wasn't budging. The only Lib Dems left in Croydon North, bearing in mind there are less than 2000 now, seem to be lifelong LibDemmers or have moved from areas where Lib Dems are strong, like Bemondsey and old Southwark. 

The UKIP voter

Again outside Selhurst station on Election Day, a young black girl, definitely a first time voter, came up to me to say she had voted UKIP. Somewhat amazed I asked her why? She replied a UKIP leaflet had come through her letterbox and she liked what she read. I asked her if she realised that many people feel UKIP is a racist party. She was the one now amazed. 

The TUSC voter

About a month before the elections I was handing out leaflets outside Norwood Junction, A commuter in hurry to get a train explained he was usually a Green voter but there's a TUSC candidate standing. I actually replied fair enough as dashed he into the station.

The voters have spoken:

Image from the Declaration at 5:30am on 8th May

This election unlike any other in history has flagged up the unfairness in our voting system. The election has delivered an unrepresentative democracy. I met many Green voters who were being "forced", as one Swedish voter told me, to vote tactically to keep the Conservative out. Yet, in Croydon North there was no need to vote tactically. Reed was sitting on a 16,000 majority, but Labour peddles the politics of fear to persuade voters to vote tactically. In my speech after the declaration I told the knackered audience that tactical voting was the winner in this election.

What is clear is that we are a live and genuine threat to Labour in Croydon. A few weeks after the Selhurst by-election one well known Labour councillor told me that it was the rise of the Green Party in Croydon North that his party were wary of, and not any Conservative challenge to their power base.

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