The Conservative Future of Croydon

By - Tuesday 29th April, 2014

Coulsdon East Conservative candidate James Thompson is proud that Croydon’s right wingers are getting younger

As the local elections continue to heat up in the coming weeks, 2014 looks set to be a real tussle between the Conservatives and Labour for who wins control of Croydon Council. Looking further ahead, 2018 could be an even more significant election for our town.

This year, there are eleven Conservative candidates under the age of 30 standing. That’s an impressive one in six. For a party often accused of being rooted in the past and not doing enough to relate to modern voters, these are encouraging statistics.

The full slate of candidates under-30 standing for the Conservatives in 2014 is:

So why are they standing?

Rosina St James, 23

Rosina St James, 23. Image used with permission.

When Rosina St James told her careers advisor that she wanted to be an MP, she was told to shelve that idea and look for work in a supermarket. Now aged just 23, she’s a trustee for vInspired and the National Youth Agency. She’s a Community Organiser in Shadwell as well as a founder of the St James Network to help young offenders resettle post-prison. Ask her why she’s a Conservative and she’ll happily explain: “I am a great believer in the saying ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ I believe people should take personal responsibility of their destiny as best as they can and we should help those who are disadvantaged in order to get them to a place that they are able to excel.”

Samir Dwesar, 24

Samir Dwesar, 24. Image used with permission.

24-year-old Samir Dwesar is proud that his great uncle was the first BME councillor elected in Croydon. Amrit Devesar served as a Labour councillor in Bensham Manor from 1971. So why has Samir decided to run as a Conservative? “As a proud Conservative and ethnic minority,” he explains, “I strongly believe that the Conservative Party is the natural home of BME voters, standing up for the values they subscribe to: working hard, aspiring to do better and family values.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

These aren’t just paper candidates. What’s really striking about these young people is that they are engaged with the areas they want to represent. Amy Pollard, 29, is a senior teacher at a Croydon school for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Mustafa Tary is a 28-year-old governor at St Mark’s CofE primary school in Woodside, and Michael Castle was on the panel that helped open up the much needed Fieldway pharmacy in 2010. At the time, he was just 19. Doesn’t that sound like just the sort of behaviour you’d want from a senior councillor, let alone a young community activist?

Matt O'Flynn, 19

Matt O’Flynn, 19. Image used with permission.

To what can we attribute this sudden surge in political engagement within the Conservative ranks of the under 30s in Croydon? The work of Citizen contributor Mario Creatura cannot be overstated, often going the extra mile to connect with people on the doorstep and encouraging them to become politically engaged, no matter what the party. Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell has done a huge amount of work reaching out to young people, always taking the time to talk to schools and engaging with them in a way not often seen in MPs. Since being elected in 2010, Gavin has had over 120 work experience students shadow him, and now holds an annual summer school where upwards of forty Croydon pupils experience life in parliament.

But it’s not just the hard work of us locally. The old Churchillian adage of ‘any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal has no heart; and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative has no brains’ no longer rings true at a national level. Average net approval for the Conservative strategy of prioritising deficit reduction is up for the 18- to 24-year-old group, in a stark contrast to older generations. Generation Y similarly supports the Conservative approach to welfare reform, again reflecting a view shift on their elders. Young people are undeniably becoming more (small ‘c’) conservative.

Conservative Future registering new voters with Lives Not Knives

Conservative Future registering new voters with Lives Not Knives. Image used with permission.

As Chairman of Croydon Conservative Future, I’d like to think that some of our work has also helped influence political engagement in the borough. By creating an active forum where under-30s can meet, socialise and discuss politics we have given a growing number of young people the confidence to think that they can make a difference and can represent their communities. One of our focuses is to look at different ways that we can get more young people to engage with politics. Over the Easter weekend we worked with another one of our party members, Eliza Rebeiro, and with her incredible Lives Not Knives charity to encourage more young people to get involved in shaping their local area. With live music, many registered on the day to vote for the first time. Be under no illusions: whatever someone’s political persuasion, we want to get as many people taking part in the debates that affect them, their friends and their families.

Amy Pollard, 29

Amy Pollard, 29. Image used with permission.

Croydon Conservative Future is growing, with more and more women and people from BME communities getting involved, diversifying the talent pool for choosing candidates for future local elections. With actual under-30 representation on the council looking likely for 2014, this should only encourage more people of a young age to get involved.

With this achieved, 2018 could see a lot more young people from all backgrounds fighting for winnable seats. In the post-riots era it is truly encouraging that we have so many young people that want to help influence and shape the community they are a part of. In all honesty, only two of the eleven currently running look likely to be elected. But with electoral experience under their belts, the other nine could find themselves selected in more winnable seats come 2018.

Now, isn’t that an encouraging thought?

James Thompson

James Thompson

James has lived in Croydon his whole life. He is a firm believer in open and honest debate and currently serves as Conservative Councillor for Coulsdon East

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article.

  • Kristian

    One of the key Tory policies is to slash inheritance tax by removing it for values up to 1 million, essentially allowing for people to become millionaires over night for zero work or effort. This is a big clash with all the talk of aspiration and hard work in this article

    Could the Tory youth respond to this? How can voters be sure you represent hard workers and are not simply in the game to protect your inheritance?

    • James Thompson

      Firstly, this is a local council election fought on local issues, not national ones. Croydon Council has no ability to bring in a national inheritance law.

      You’re assuming that all candidates standing are rich or from rich backgrounds which is not only completely incorrect it is also an offensive stereotype and reflects more on yourself being out of touch than the Conservative Party which this article has shown to be engaging with people from all spectrums.

      On the actual issue of inheritance tax itself, which again, is not a Croydon Council pledge nor issue, I am personally in favour of abolishing it. Why? People work hard their whole lives, paying income tax & national insurance at source, why should they be taxed once again on their earnings when they die? In London and the South East where property prices are very high it is not unusual for children of parents who may die before they have a chance to get on the property ladder to be forced to sell their family home purely because of inheritance tax. Is that fair? The notion of aspiration is that you work hard and you get rewarded, the view that are you espousing is that you work hard, get taxed, die, get taxed again, all that you’ve worked for comes to nothing. I believe in the notion of liberty and people having the freedom to spend their hard earned cash on whatever they choose, whether it be to give their children a step up or if they want to give it all to charity, it is for the individual to decide and not the state.

      It should be noted these are my personal views, and others within the Conservative ‘youth’ as you like to put may view things differently, but we are autonomous with our own opinions and views, how it should be.

      • Kristian

        The question was asked to try to determine what your values are, not because inheritance tax is local policy. It’s useful to know this because it gives an indication on how you might approach issues such as social housing, which is a council matter. You may from time to time be asked questions about your values and personal matters relating to potential conflicts of interest, and it’s probably better for your election hopes if you try to hide the contempt in which you hold the resident who asked the question.

        It’s great to see your upholding the Croydon politicians tradition of calling anyone who says anything you don’t like “out of touch”. However, that is normally short for “out of touch with your electorate” and as I’m not a politician, I’m not sure who it is you think I’m out of touch with or why that’s relevant.

        I know not all candidates are rich, but the Conservative party is disproportinately represented by the wealthy. For those who are not, it might be useful to think about the conflicts of interest in their fellow candidates that they are electioneering with.

        I’m sorry I can’t cry about your sob story of the child who inherits a £500,000 home from their parents and is asked to pay £60,000 in tax. Most people can only dream of being offered an opportunity to receive £440,000 worth of property for free. It’s also a lie that you need to sell up, you could take out a mortgage on the tax. It’s such easy money, for no hard work and if inheritance is allowed to go on and on, the gap between rich and poor will continue to widen until it reaches more extreme levels than it is at now.

        People who inherit this sort of money have it all. Generally, a stable family, private education (or the best state schools minimally), and connections to get them into jobs. No sorry, I’m crying for other people. I’m crying for the person who grew up in a single parent home with a drug addicted mother, a child who never had a chance. I’m sobbing for the child who fled religious persecution in their home country, lost their parents on the journey and landed themselves in the UK. People who knew, as children, what it meant to go hungry for sometimes days on end.

        Sorry, the poor aren’t poor because they don’t work hard enough, or aren’t ‘aspirational’ enough. They never had the upbringing or the opportunities your ilk have had. Poverty is systematic and untaxed inheritance is one of the major systems maintaining inequality in this country.

        • James Thompson

          I struggle to see how this relates to the exciting news that we have so many under 30s candidates in Croydon, but needs must.

          You’ve made quite a jump already I see, telling me what I think of you, where all I’ve done is point out the inherent weaknesses in what you wrote and showed ‘contempt’ as you put it for what you wrote. There’s no personal element to this at all. As for my electorate, I am confident that they will judge me on my deeds and actions and how I interact with them, not how obviously a non-party supporter tries to goad me.

          You are out of touch because you are making stereotypes about a group you clearly know nothing about. How much time have you spent with the candidates? Do you know anything about any of us? I would suggest not. But let’s deal with your stereotype. I went to a public primary school, one in the ward I am fighting to represent funnily enough. I went to a grammar school for my secondary education, and got a job in Waitrose in Coulsdon aged 16 to help pay towards my university education that I didn’t have inheritance money to help pay for. Does that fit with your privately educated born with a silver spoon perception? I’m not claiming I’ve had it hard, but I have worked hard in my life to be where I am now. When I die I’d like all I’ve worked for not to just disappear. We all pay taxes everyday which go towards the NHS etc which you suggest inheritance tax should go towards. Where do you draw the line then? Should we all pay 100% income tax? Or are you happy for some levels of taxation and others not?

          It’s also incredibly naive of you to just claim someone can get a mortgage. Let’s say someone is looking after their elderly sick mother, they have to give up their job to do so. They have no savings, but their parents live in an old house that is worth £600,000. The parent dies and they get lumped with a substantial tax bill. Not only do they have to deal with the death of a parent they have to deal with a financial burden that they may not be able to pay off causing them to have to sell everything. Given property prices in London and such places that might also mean having to move away to get a similar property. Yes, they aren’t a starving child brought up in poverty, but why does that mean they have to be punished and lose what their parents have worked hard for and chosen to give to them?

          I look forward to your next judgement based on no knowledge of the individuals you so freely place into baskets.

          • Kristian

            “It’s also incredibly naive of you to just claim someone can get a
            mortgage. Let’s say someone is looking after their elderly sick mother….”

            This is the point at which I laughed out loud. This is exactly what the current administration has done to the poor with the bedroom tax, forced them to downsize. Trust me, if they could swap their situation for the hypothetical sob story which you describe, every one of them would.

            Most people spend their lives trying to earn enough to pay for their home. You want certain people to get it for free, without the hard work. This is fundamentally at odds with your ‘aspiration nation’ line. But by all means, keep attacking me instead of the points I’m making, I’m sure that’ll convince anyone else who’s reading that you are right.

    • Mario Creatura

      I agree with James on this – aspiration is an incredibly important quality that needs to be encouraged in young people. How much harder is that to kindle if they know that the vast majority of the work that they put in to achieving their goals will be taxed above and beyond what is absolutely necessary?

      If you are an average kid from Croydon, why would you study hard at school, work hard in adulthood and achieve aim to earn a decent salary, knowing that anything you save up in retirement will be taken by the state on death?

      If and when someone writes a will, it’s right that they get to decide who or what -their- assets go to. If they want them to go to their children or to a cat sanctuary, they’ve accumulated those assets and so it should be entirely up to the individuals what they do with them.

      Aspiration is not in conflict with the national Conservative policy of reducing inheritance tax, it’s actively encouraging it.

      • Anne Giles

        Hear! Hear! When my mother-in-law died, £90,000 went to HM Revenue. It was tragic. My in-laws had no idea about tax free gifts, whereas my own mother did and she gave £3,000 away every year. Nothing to HM Revenue. We each received £30,000 and, of course, spent it! I also made sure that my mother’s will included money for my greatniece (whose parents had separated) to pay her university fees and my brother-in-law in Spain who was left alone in a rented flat when my sister died.

        • Kristian

          Inheritance tax is 40% on amounts over 325,000 I believe. As such I calculate the total inheritance (or ‘unearned wealth’ as i like to call it) is £550,000. So you paid £90,000 and received £460,000 free. You poor thing, I’m literally in tears reading your story. That’s so unfair. Why should you be expected to get less than the full £550,000 and have to see a small portion go towards things like the NHS, policing and social services?

          • Robert

            I inherited nothing. Every penny I have, I earned. I have moved thousands of miles to get work, worked very long hours in remote and unpleasant places, paid tax on earned income, on interest on my savings, and when I was unemployed got no benefits because I had savings. I resent that after all that, I cannot pass it on to my children without yet more being taken.

            I also resent the portrayal of this as tearing the food from the mouths of the disadvantaged. A civilised society supports those in need. I see reducing public sector inefficiency and welfare dependency as the means to square the circle, not feeding ever more money into the system.

          • Kristian

            Well done. Your children can now look forward to a stable upbringing, a great education and a fantastic start in life. On top of that, they’ll receive £325,000 tax free on your earnings. Beyond that, they’ll get taxed only 40% on anything above that. But you resent that. You resent that a little portion will go towards giving the disadvantaged a start in life that isn’t anywhere near as good a start as that which you’ve provided your young. No, your young now deserve to pass through life comfortably without really bothering. Why they should they have to suffer any inconvience to pay for things such as social housing for children who otherwise wouldn’t have a roof over their head at all?

          • Robert

            You are again implying that there is a system out there that works and is efficient and that all that is lacking is more money. The opposite is the case. Feeding ever more money in manifestly does not work.

            During the most sustained period of economic growth of modern times during which ever increasing amounts of money were put into the public purse the issues of public sector efficiency and welfare dependency were not addressed. Indeed they worsened. As Tony Blair wrote “there was no problem for which Gordon didn’t see the solution as hiring more civil servants.

            During that same period there were hundreds of thousands of fit people of working age who remained unemployed. A clue here as to part of the reason is that post the financial crash my children took waitering jobs when they were made redundant . Even with high post-crash levels of unemployment in many cases they were the only non-Eastern Europeans on shift.

            Some cost examples – more than one mobile phone for people who are never required for contact out of hours. More than one laptop as well as a desktop pc at work. A printer on every desk. A personal office in Central London for someone who only sits in it a day a month.

            So cease characterising the tax that I do not wish to pay as taking food from the mouths of the poor. Instead first take the money from those who take advantage. When I see this kind of waste and systemic failings being addressed, I will gladly contribute more. Until then I see it as perpetuating a broken system.

          • Anne Giles

            The inheritance tax threshold was less at that time. £460,000? Are you dreaming? After paying legal fees and other bequests, family, children, grandchildren, etc. it was far less than that. I think we just managed to pay off our mortgage and that was about it. It sounds like sour grapes on your behalf though.

      • Anne Giles

        It’s not only taken by the state on death? What about in care for the elderly? When my mother went into sheltered accommodation with a care package, she was the only resident whose house had had to be sold. The other residents had everything paid for by the state.

  • gbsblogs

    I can’t help feeling I deserve kind of ‘honourable mention’ here.

    • Anne Giles

      Do tell us your story, Gareth.

  • DeClare

    Only the two Coulsdon ones will win, with Michael Castle a remote possibility.