Election 2016: What do the results tell us about Croydon?

By - Thursday 26th May, 2016

Robert Ward drills down into the data to draw conclusions on which way the borough is leaning

Second preferences for London mayor.
Image author’s own.

You will be relieved to know that the recent election for the Greater London Authority and London mayor is the last for some time (I don’t count the EU referendum). But it’s hard to resist firing up the spreadsheet one last time before taking a rest.

Since I’m not the only one offering analysis of the result, I thought that I would offer a slightly different take. Rather than look at changes compared to the 2015 general election or the last mayoral contest, I decided to look purely within the data from this particular election, and within that, only the results for Croydon and Sutton.

For data geeks, this election has some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we get more data than usual because there were three ballot papers, and one even had a first and second choice. The bad news is that the list of minor candidates is different in each of the three.

Zac Goldsmith secured the most first choice votes both in Croydon and in Sutton

The Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP (‘the big five’) were the only parties to be on all three ballots. The shortest and simplest list, that for the constituency member for Croydon and Sutton, had only two other candidates (National Front and the All People’s Party). Here, the big five secured over 98% of the votes between them.

The elections for Mayor of London and for London constituency member each had seven options over and above the big five. The BNP, Britain First (with an appeal similar to the BNP, whom they have somewhat eclipsed), RESPECT (George Galloway) and the Women’s Equality Party appeared on both, with a different group of three making up the balance. Roughly 98% of the votes were cast for the nine parties common to both lists, with the big five capturing 94% and 91%, in first choice selection for mayor and for London Assembly member respectively.

The clear conclusions are that although he lost the contest for London mayor, Zac Goldsmith secured the most first choice votes both in Croydon and in Sutton. Conservative Steve O’Connell won the election for Croydon and Sutton representative, winning Croydon by a whisker, but Sutton by a much larger margin. It is also clear that the joking (I think) remark by Labour councillor Stuart Collins that the Lib Dems had colluded with the Tories by having a candidate with the same surname as theirs (both Ahmad) was wide of the mark.

Croydon Council would still have a Labour majority if these results were repeated

Implications for the next general election in 2020 and for Croydon Council in 2018 are clouded by the fact that although results of votes cast on the day are reported down to ward level, the postal ballots across all of Croydon are lumped together. The postal vote totals tell us that Tories are systematically more likely than Labour to vote by post than at the polling station.

Making the approximation that postal voters are evenly spread across the wards, the Tories won our marginal Croydon Central parliamentary constituency in all three ballots. However, Croydon Council would still have a Labour majority if these results were repeated; the only change from the current state being the Conservatives gaining Ashburton. On this evidence, it would appear that for the Conservatives winning back Croydon Council is a rather bigger ask than retaining Croydon Central.

An interesting bonus data set from this election was publication of the detailed second preferences in the vote for London mayor. What this enables us to see is the secondary allegiance of voters who voted as a first choice for the minor party candidates, i.e. not Labour’s Sadiq Khan or Conservative Zac Goldsmith.

The data shows that my hypothesis that Zac Goldsmith would appeal to Green voters’ second preferences was wrong

As can be seen from the chart, which is for across London, excluding voters who expressed no second preference or a second preference that was the same as the first, the Green vote very firmly chose Sadiq Khan over Zac Goldsmith by around a five to one ratio. Examination of the policies of the Green Party show them to be well to the left, so this is perhaps unsurprising. The characterisation of Greens as watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) appears accurate. It also shows my hypothesis that Zac Goldsmith would appeal to Green voters’ second preferences was wrong.

UKIP voters chose Zac over Sadiq by a smaller but still substantial margin. However, the impact was reduced because a substantial minority of UKIP first choice voters chose either the BNP or Britain First as their second choice. Indeed, the number of UKIP second choice votes for these two parties combined was greater than for Zac Goldsmith. The Lib Dems split more evenly, going for Sadiq over Zac by a three to two margin.

A warning not to read too much into the second preferences is that the choices made by some voters defy rational explanation. For example, across London more than three thousand voters who chose the BNP or Britain First candidates as a first preference voted for Sadiq Khan as a second preference.

So where does that leave us? For Croydon, it shows that there is all to play for in the Croydon Council elections in 2018 and for our marginal Croydon Central in 2020. A lot can happen in two years, but at least for the moment we can all take a rest from opinion polls and elections.

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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