The Brexit effect on Croydon’s general election

By - Friday 26th May, 2017

We’re having an unexpected election because of an unexpected result, and its shockwaves are felt in Croydon’s campaigns

Photo public domain.

We are where we are. Unfortunately, much of the discussion since the Brexit vote has been diverted into places where we are not. It can be a good place to hide if you don’t like where we are, but doesn’t change the reality.

Where we are is that we have voted to leave the European Union and Article 50 has been invoked by our government. The question is not how things might have been different or who said what and when, it is what happens next. We are, most definitely, where we are.

Our government and our MPs as our representatives in parliament are a key part of now getting us to where we need to be. Whoever is elected on 8th June, that will be their job.

Both Steve Reed and Chris Philp were aligned with their Remain-voting constituents

The general election has thus presented an interesting challenge for our Croydon MPs and their parties. Both Labour’s Steve Reed in Croydon North and Tory Chris Philp in Croydon South were aligned with their Remain-voting constituents but not with the broader electorate. Croydon Central’s Gavin Barwell was out of synch with his own voters and the wider electorate who both, albeit narrowly in the case of his constituents, went for Leave.

That is an important consideration for them, they do after all want to get re-elected, but although MPs are elected to represent us, they are not mere delegates required to vote as their constituency electorate thinks. However, that is no longer the point, we are where we are.

As I have written before, there are sensible arguments for and against Brexit. Just because you lost a referendum there is no compulsion to change your view. Being honest about that and working to reverse that decision is entirely honourable, albeit bordering on the impossible given that once triggered, there is no mechanism to “un-trigger” Article 50.

The Conservatives have accepted the reality of where we are

That, however is the stance adopted by the Lib Dems as the ‘UKIP of Remain’. Their main objective in this election is to somehow rebuild their support from their terrible result at the 2015 general election. In the unlikely event of a Lib Dem government, their strategy it would appear is to have another even more divisive referendum on the ‘deal’ we are making with the EU. If Remain were then to win, they would go back to the European Union and ask to be reinstated as a member.

Were I the EU in that situation I would say that’s fine, but here is the list of things you need to do before we let you back, likely to include even bigger payments than before. Pretending otherwise is, in my opinion, disingenuous.

The Conservatives under Theresa May accepted the reality of where we are and have formed a strategy to take us forward. Chris Philp and Gavin Barwell, Remainers themselves, have accepted that challenge of making a success of Brexit. As the governing party, they really had little choice.

Whether no deal is better or worse than a bad deal is semantics

Steve Reed at a local level has an easy choice, being at one with his Remain inclined constituents. At national level things are more difficult for his party. As the main party of opposition they need to oppose the government, but oppose them on what?

There is little argument that the UK would like a future trading relationship as close as possible to membership of the single market, but without the strings that the EU would like to impose on us. The question is how to achieve that aim. Whether no deal is better or worse than a bad deal is semantics. No deal is where you start from because unless you are prepared to walk away from a negotiation you will certainly get a poor deal. Labour’s view of what success would look like might be different from the Conservatives, more towards workers’ rights than free markets, but were they in government their stance would be much the same. That is unless they were setting out to fail.

Yet Labour have to provide an alternative vision, whilst reconciling the views of their supporters outside of London, many of whom voted Leave. The near impossibility of reconciling those two demands coupled with their leader’s weakness and unpopularity has lead the Labour Party to fight a more local campaign: characterising Brexit as a Tory Brexit and therefore bad and avoiding mention of their unpopular leader. Steve Reed appears to be adopting that model, as has Gavin Barwell’s Labour opponent.

As ever, the Croydon battleground is Croydon Central. London’s tightest marginal, won in 2015 by only 165 votes, is being defended by Gavin Barwell. National polls indicate he should be in a good position and Theresa May is undoubtedly a popular leader but London is different from the rest of the UK so things may not be so easy. Brexit is the biggest challenge by far that the new government will face, but policy in other areas counts too. With three weeks to go there is still a lot to play for.

Robert Ward

Robert Ward

Engineer and project manager specialised in helping businesses make better strategic decisions and improve safety, quality and effectiveness. Conservative Party Councillor representing Selsdon and Addington Village on Croydon Council. He tweets as @moguloilman.

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  • darran leo king

    13 years Under Labour they sign all our Rights away to the EU , How can you Trust a Crackhead Backbencher Corbyn jump into Bed with Grime4Corbyn with 411 followers show you how much bullshit you have with Crackhead . remember this Crackhead came to Croydon and no one from CroydonLabour Wankers sent out a single tweet about this meeting Fact Corbyn walk away from any interviews from Croydon town centre . before you Vote remember War in Iraq & 150 Billion to the Banks 2008 . Plus 13 years with Labour only 7000 council homes was made, the best news more than half of the Labour Party hates and do not support Corbyn wake up only the Conservatives can give us the best deal out from EU, remember Labour made the deal with EU we say fuck the EU make England strong and Number 1 fullstop

  • darran leo king

    Going out to Croydon 5,2 Billion Private Investments and No Social housing take good look at croydon town full of empty shops / offices / No nightlife and Please remember 3 million and 160,000 per year to Croydon Boxpark and Croydon ends up with hashtags boxpark & boxparkcroydon & Eatdrinkplay not worth a wank and you still want to vote for Labour grow up

  • trypewriter

    Compelling reply from Darran. Vote conservative, be like Darran! (and Robert).

    • Allen Williams

      nice one!

  • Robert Ward

    Robert was just baffled.

  • Anne Giles

    I didn’t understand what Darran was saying at all.

    • Ian Marvin

      I think Darran requires moderating.

  • Allen Williams

    I don’t think Brexit should be at issue at all in this election: both major parties have sensibly concluded that the referendum result makes it a foregone conclusion. As to which party is likely to secure the better terms, both leaders were clearly in two minds about leaving the EU before the referendum, and are quite happy to lead us out. Personally, I think May is a perfectly dreadful woman with no principles at all other than that She should be PM. I wouldn’t trust her to negotiate the price of a cabbage in the market. Her manifesto contains precious few promises and, as Andrew Neill has pointed out, she has broken all records by being the first to break one of them even before the election. No, the choice for me (as a socialist Leaver, brought up in the leafy surrounds of Coulsdon, but not a Labour member or supporter) is clear. I am voting Labour.