The Public Gallery: The campaign begins


By - Thursday 2nd April, 2015

Tom Black runs through some of the events that have followed the starting gun of the general election


Croydon no longer has any MPs. Strictly speaking, nowhere has any MPs. Parliament dissolved (not literally) on Monday at one minute past midnight, marking the formal beginning of the election campaign (although if you’re wondering what’s been going on since December if the election campaign has only just begun now, you’re not alone). Messrs Barwell, Reed and Ottaway are all technically out of work now, and are – according to Barwell’s own Twitter account – obliged to remove ‘MP’ from official forms of contact, including Twitter itself. At the time of writing, Reed is one of many currently-former-MPs who have yet to do so, while Barwell’s Twitter account has become ‘BackBarwell’, the slogan of his re-election campaign. Both men will be fighting to reclaim their jobs in a month’s time, though Reed will have an easier time of it.

Croydon South’s Richard Ottaway, of course, will definitely not be returning to parliament. After twenty-three years representing the constituency, and a spell representing Nottingham North in the 1980s, Ottaway is retiring. While Croydon South’s constituents will see a new MP, it’s unlikely they’ll elect a new party – the retiring Ottaway is likely to effectively regenerate into Chris Philp, like some kind of right wing David Tennant.

What all this means, of course, is that the election is now well and truly underway. So strap in, knuckle down and – if you live in Croydon Central – prepare your letterbox.

Sarah Jones goes into print – in more ways than one

Speaking of election literature, the national press had fun this week with how Nick Clegg’s latest leaflet in Sheffield Hallam looks like a copy of Heat magazine and doesn’t make it particularly obvious that he’s a Liberal Democrat. In Croydon, a different kind of mock-publication hit the streets: Sarah Jones’s ‘Croydon Labour’ newspaper.

Leading with ‘stories’ about Labour saving the NHS – the key plank of Jones’s campaign, as well as Miliband’s – the paper’s front page also features a rare mix of Obama ’08 slogans (Yes We Can) and Conservative 2010 slogans (Time For Change). But that probably won’t be noticed by people who aren’t, y’know, geeks.

Of course, both Jones and her opponent, Gavin Barwell, can also be seen on the cover of this month’s Citizen, out this week, duking it out in the metaphorical battle for Croydon Central. Inside the paper, you can read their head-to-head ‘printed debate’, in which both were presented with the same questions and asked to provide answers in writing. The paper is available now.

Should candidates’ faces be on ballot papers?

Fans of the academic analysis of politics will be pleased to know that Leanne Cater at the University of York is researching whether including candidates’ photographs on ballot papers at elections would influence how the electorate votes. Leanne is focusing particularly on Croydon Central.

If you live in Croydon Central, you can take part in a survey that Leanne is carrying out by clicking here. I’ll be keeping in touch with Leanne and will report back on whatever findings she is able to share.

The Public Gallery is back on the air

My radio show, also called The Public Gallery (synergy, innit?) is back this Sunday on Croydon Radio. I’ll be exploring the public perception of the ongoing Westfield development and its current hiatus thanks to the Compulsory Purchase Order review. I’ll also be talking live to the Green Party’s candidate for Croydon Central, Esther Sutton, alongside UKIP’s Peter Staveley.

Tune in at 7pm on on Easter Sunday for a look at the changing face of Croydon’s high street, and a discussion of ‘small party politics’ – three days after the seven-party debate on ITV sees Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett represent Peter and Esther’s parties on a national platform.

The Citizen‘s live debate is going ahead

Unlike David Cameron’s ‘logjam’ with the TV broadcasters, the arrangements for the Citizen‘s live debate have gone very smoothly indeed. Both Gavin Barwell and Sarah Jones have enthusiastically agreed to debate one another in a follow-up to their printed head-to-head.

The debate will take place on Saturday 2nd May, in the Studio at Matthew’s Yard. The debate begins at 7:30pm. You can submit questions in advance by emailing them to .

Tom Black

Tom Black

Tom is the Citizen's General Manager, and spent his whole life in Croydon until moving to Balham in 2017. He also writes plays that are occasionally performed and books that are occasionally enjoyed. He's been a Labour Party member since 2007, and in his spare time runs an online publishing house for alternate history books, Sea Lion Press. He is fluent in Danish, but speaks no useful languages. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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