How should Croydon’s progressives vote in the general election?

By - Tuesday 21st April, 2015

Sean Creighton offers some advice to those who want a different kind of governing coalition

Recently in the Citizen, Robert Ward explained why he’s going to vote Conservative. How about the decision-making process for those looking in a different direction?

I believe it’s going to be difficult for progressive people in Croydon to decide how to vote in the general election. For Labour supporters – how can they ensure that there are MPs who can help form at least a minority party government? For those leaning further to the left, how can they warn Labour that its policies such as commitment to austerity and to TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), to the fragmentation of the school system, to Trident replacement and nuclear weapons and to building nuclear power stations are not acceptable to them, and give support to policies they regard as important?

The big risk is that Greens and TUSC in Croydon Central could ensure the re-election of the Tory incumbent

The Greens are standing Shasha Khan, who took the Beddington incinerator decision to judicial review, in Croydon North, Esther Sutton in Central and Peter Underwood in South. TUSC (the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition) is standing April Ashley in Central and Glen Hart in North. The Communist Party is standing its General Secretary Ben Stevenson in North. Recent polls suggest that Labour’s Sarah Jones could beat incumbent Tory MP Barwell in Croydon Central, but the problem with the Greens and TUSC standing in that constitutuency is that they could take enough votes from Labour to help the re-election of Barwell .

In Croydon North, Steve Reed’s majority is high enough to be maintained even if rival progressives do well, and given the low polls achieved by the Tories and UKIP in his by-election, there is no danger of him losing. Such progressive parties would, I think, be more likely to attract voters if they joined behind one of their candidates as a Croydon Progressive Alliance.

So on what kind of grounds might such parties unite, and on what local and national issues should we be examining the policies they have on offer? Each of the three progressive parties needs to spell out what their campaigning position is on local matters such as the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and the socio-economic consequences of plans for very expensive apartment tower blocks. If TUSC, for example, just concentrates on national demands without linking them into local issues and concerns like these, it will not be seen as either relevant or worth voting for.

So what should the local demands include? My suggestions are as follows:

  • End of behind the scenes active council partnerships with developers
  • Restoration of consultation rights in planning
  • Allocation of money from the sale of Croydon’s Riesco collection to Fairfield Halls and cultural activity, not to general capital expenditure
  • Opposition to approval of the Compulsory Purchase Orders for the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre or tight modifications to increase the benefits and minimise the disruption
  • No to John Lewis coming to Croydon while it continues to contract out its cleaning services and does not ensure cleaners are paid at least the London Living Wage
  • A ban on the marketing abroad of new apartments being built in Croydon
  • A separation of governance between the council and Fairfield Halls and Whitgift Foundation, so that councillors are not trustees
  • The introduction of Neighbourhood Committees between councillors, residents and local businesses to decide on the delivery of council services and to manage planning developments and ‘regeneration’ funding
  • Council to compulsorily purchase SEGAS House and Electric House for community uses such as a museum and art gallery
  • An end to the CCURV vehicle with J Laing and a public inquiry into the way it has operated
  • An end to the library contract with Carillion
  • Withdrawal from the partnership controlling the unwanted incinerator on Beddington Lane
  • Protection of the Riesco collection from further sale and a public inquiry into the ownership and sale.

Then we come to broader, less Croydon-specific matters. Local issues are of course influenced by national policies and legislation. I suggest the following:

  • An end to the bedroom tax
  • An end to legislative backed commercial confidentiality in contracts awarded by local government
  • Organised residents to be given the right of appeal against planning decisions they oppose
  • Local authorities to be required to notify the start of pre-planning application discussion.
  • An end to decision making through the reserved matters procedure so that decisions of major developments are taken publicly by planning committees
  • An end to the link between affordable and market rents
  • An end to government support for buy-to-let
  • Introduction of loan finance to small businesses on the basis of profit sharing not interest payments
  • A ban on companies hiding behind off-shore registration so that it is publicity known who owns companies operating in Britain
  • A ban on fracking
  • An end to the creation of new academies and free schools
  • A return of London-wide government to democratic accountability with elected councillors
  • A public inquiry into the future accountability of the metropolitan police given the failure of the London mayoral system.
  • The building of the London Plan from the needs of each neighbourhood rather than imposing requirements on local authorities
  • The creation of smaller London boroughs which can be closer to their electorates.
  • ‘The introduction of a ‘none of the above’ box on ballot papers to encourage everyone to vote.
  • The requirement that in the event of ‘none of the above’ votes being the larger number there has to be a new election with different candidates

What would you like to see added to the above? Remember that it is perfectly legitimate to ask all candidates representing left of centre parties via through email, letters and at public meetings and election hustings debates to support such a programme, the reasons for giving these policies their support and their reasons for not doing so if they refuse.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • Anne Giles

    Although you and I generally disagree politically, I do agree with some of your points.