Thursday, May 28, 2015

Coverage in the final week before the election

When this site first emerged from cyberspace in June 2006, this blogger got quite excited when a letter of his was published; more so when he was making a contributory comment in an article; and if he ever had a photo of him in print, well two copies of the covering newspaper were purchased! All press cuttings at that time were scanned and posted on this blog. Getting coverage in the local papers around election time was much harder.

Fast forward to 2015. All three of us Green candidates received good coverage in the local papers. However, during the week before the election, this blogger found four different photos of his mug in the final edition of the Croydon Advertiser before the actual election. He also appeared on the front page of the Croydon and Sutton Guardian, the news page of the Croydon Citizen, and last, but not least, he was the subject of a revealing piece in Inside Croydon.

Croydon Advertiser (Friday May 1st) - Online version here

Croydon Advertiser (Friday 1st May) - online version here

Alongside the sublime Wilfried Zaha in Croydon Advertiser (Friday May 1st)

Croydon Advertiser (1st May) - Online version here

Croydon Guardian 29th April - online version here

Croydon Citizen (April 2015) - online version here

Article in Inside Croydon (April 29th) - online version here

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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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Have I smeared Steve Reed MP?

On 5th May, Steve Reed (Labour candidate for Croydon North) tweeted:

Two people from mosque hustings have now joined Labour, say they were angry about Green candidate's smears. Great to have them on board!

A smear is an unfair or untrue political attack designed to undermine someones credibility.

I myself and others have asked him for details but he hasn't responded. I feel it is appropriate to explain what I assume is he is referring to.

Firstly, I would say this is not a religious issue, this is about recognising what is right and what is wrong.

Last summer during the Israeli/Gaza conflict I noticed, by chance, a tweet sent by Steve Reed MP which had failed to capture the mood of what everyone was thinking.

@SteveReedMP to @NuriaCorbi in yr view how shd a country [Israel] respond if over 2000 rockets are fired at it in a year from launchers placed in populated areas?

I recall listening to phone-ins on the radio and nearly every fair-minded individual could see that Israel's shelling of Gaza and the resulting number of deaths, 2000 in comparison to 75, was disproportionate. Moreover, I spoke to a Jewish person who enlightened me on a her perspective on the crisis and she said that Israel possessed the best weapons in the world. She couldn't understand why if Israel was targeting the leaders of Hamas that civilians died, including the four boys playing football on the beach.

My point is this: I want the MP for Croydon North not to seemingly attempt to justify Israel's actions but to condemn her excessive use of force unequivocally.

These are the facts which I assume has lead to Steve Reed's 'smears' tweet:


1) On 17th April, I ran a stall outside the mosque at Friday prayers. I wrote out the ill-judged tweet on a piece of card.


2) I shot the footage above after Friday prayers. About 45 minutes earlier, Steve Reed walked passed the stall and spotted the card which carried his tweet. He read it carefully and asked me in  a surprised fashion, "Did I say that?"

3) On 26th April, Croydon Mosque held a hustings for Croydon North. I sat next to Steve Reed. A question came up on the unconditional withdrawal from the occupied territories from a younger member of the audience.

Croydon Mosque hustings. Steve Reed (third from right) with me beside him

I commenced my answer by saying that we all have to recognise the anxieties that Jewish people carry about their security, especially after what happened during WWII. I finished answering the question by reading out Steve Reed's ill-judged tweet to @nuriacorbi, reminding the audience all fair minded people could see that Israel's reaction was wholly disproportionate.

His reaction was incredible. He went ballistic. I can't recall the full tirade but he did wag his finger in my face saying, "you claim to be someone with integrity, you should be ashamed of yourself." The word, "smear" was also used. Reed implied people should look at the full exchange and quoted a previous tweet he sent to @NuriaCorbi.

Presumably, Reed had realised that his tweet, which I had drawn his attention to on my stall, was ill-judged and he had taken the trouble to look back at the exchange with @NuriaCorbi in anticipation it could come up at the hustings.

Now, I happen to think bringing up the full exchange of tweets is the only defence of what he tweeted. However, his reaction, for me, was one of how dare you bring this us up because it looks really bad - and it is.

Immediately after the hustings, I went up to couple of the younger members of the audience and asked if I was wrong to read out the tweet? They replied I was right to read out his tweet and "his reaction said it all."

4) I contacted @NuriaCorbi via twitter to  actually find out what the person on the other side of the exchange thought. She kindly sent me the following Direct Message:

Yes, very disappointed in him because he was defending the indefensible in my opinion. I expected a more courageous stand from Labour. For me, the issue is very clear.

[After re-reading the ill-judged tweet]

I think his tweet needs no further explanation, it speaks for itself. He doesn't address why these rockets are fired in the first place. 
It is a typical textbook reply you get from people who support Israel's view. The next thing people come up with is that 'you're anti-semitic or anti-Jewish'. Nothing could be further from the truth, but they run out of arguments and it's a quick way to end the conversation. 
I'm just an ordinary person who tweeted something I felt strongly about and got I reply from a politician! It surprised me and it's nice he responded, but I'm still disappointed in his reply.

[I pointed out that he feels that I took his tweet out of context]

I guess that's easily done, but he never actually said what Israel were doing  is wrong, that's most what I was disappointed about most.  
I was hoping that some politician would take a clear stand on what was happening, and I saw that nobody was as outraged as they should have been, nobody was expressing any outrage or condemnation, I had just watched a report about Gaza and was in tears seeing the images.

5) On the final Sunday before the election I was canvassing in Thornton Heath and I bumped into an elder who was at the hustings. I asked his opinion about Steve Reed's reaction. He replied, "we saw his real character."


Is it accurate for Reed to say I subjected him to smears? Well, it is perfectly reasonable for me to inform people what Reed has tweeted. I have not deliberately lied because the tweet is clear to see. Therefore, I can only be accused of being unfair, in that I have misrepresented Reed's tweet. If I have misrepresented Reed's tweet then the error is my misinterpretation of it. If this is the case, then why not simply say this? Instead, Reed's initial reaction outside the mosque and Nuria's message to me leave me feeling Reed simply hated being exposed again.
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Standing up for what matters