The Public Gallery: What the next government could mean for Croydon

By - Thursday 26th March, 2015

Tom Black’s been thinking of post- general election scenarios, and some unthinkable ones

The next election is the hardest to predict in living memory. The papers and the airwaves are filled with talk of minority governments, coalitions, pacts, ‘case-by-case agreements’, and ‘well hung parliaments’ (the somewhat racy name for a parliament in which even two parties together cannot form a majority government).

For those of us of a politically geeky bent, it’s dead exciting. But for people who just want to make a decent living in a well-run country, there’s a chance that it can be concerning, or even frightening. It’s become impossible to meaningfully say what lies ahead, and that’s before we get into the still-volatile European and global economies. And, you know, Russia.

I’ve therefore decided to use this week’s TPG to explore, as far as possible, the potential impacts on Croydon of the plausible options for our next government. I say ‘plausible’ because the scenarios below are all based on the probabilities calculated by various pollsters and betting firms. Well, except the last one.

Like all speculation, it’s not a science (let alone an exact one), and I’m sure that there’ll be things people disagree with me about. But that’s great – leave a comment below or send me an and maybe this will be the beginning of a conversation about the way the next government, whatever its makeup, can best help Croydon.

Same Again: Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition

In brief: The current arrangement is repeated. Not as likely as it once was, for a number of reasons. The Lib Dem collapse is likely to reduce them to between 25 and 30 seats, and the Conservatives are unlikely to make a net gain of seats in May. The parliamentary arithmetic, plus Nick Clegg’s likely ousting as Lib Dem leader shortly after the election in favour of the ‘leftier’ and anti-coalition Tim Farron, make this hard to see becoming a reality without a hitch.

Impact on Croydon: If the stars aligned and the coalition did continue, the Lib Dems would want more concessions than before. That might mean further raises in the bottom income tax threshold, which would take more of Croydon’s lower earners out of income tax altogether. Croydon’s mental health services and charities would welcome any increase in mental health funding, which the Lib Dems plan to place at the centre of their NHS policy at the election – this would probably be a feature of any future coalition agreement with them.

On the Conservative side, Theresa May would probably get to stay as Home Secretary, which would see the problems with ‘stop and search’ continue to be tackled with some gusto. Cameron staying in office means that the plan for 500 free schools UK-wide would get the go-ahead, which would doubtless have an impact on Croydon’s school places problem. George Osborne would remain as chancellor, so the Croydon Growth Zone would continue to have the level of support it currently does from the Treasury. In this scenario, Gavin Barwell has probably held on as MP for Croydon Central, and may find a ministerial job waiting for him in the reshuffle. The status quo broadly remaining the same would probably grease the wheels of Croydon Westfield as it gathers momentum.

The government’s cuts programme would continue, including in youth services and local government generally, two areas in which Croydon has notably struggled to make savings without pain. The ‘bedroom tax’, which Croydon Labour and various disability groups claim has hurt disabled people in the borough, would not be repealed. Croydonians would vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union, probably in 2017.

Prime Minister: David Cameron.

We Are The 45%: Labour-SNP ‘agreement’

In brief: A formal coalition with the Scottish Nationalist Party has been ruled out by Ed Miliband, and branded unlikely by Nicola Sturgeon. But if the polls in Scotland stay as they are, Labour’s hopes of a majority are non-existent. It will have to rely on the SNP – and anyone else they can get on board – for support on confidence votes. The SNP has said it would be prepared to offer Labour support for passing policies ‘on a case by case basis’.

Impact on Croydon: Controversial, this. Alex Salmond has boasted that he will dictate terms to Ed Balls that must be met if the SNP is to support Labour’s first budget (a budget being defeated in the House of Commons de facto means that the government has fallen, as it would now not legally be allowed to collect any taxes).

The Eds have insisted they won’t let anyone other than Labour write Labour’s budget, but it’s undeniable that they would have to have at least informal talks with the SNP leadership to secure support. Red Scots hoping that the SNP will demand a complete end to austerity would no doubt be disappointed, but it’s likely Labour would have to send some ‘pork’ to Scotland. The Conservatives – in Croydon and the rest of England – would perhaps justifiably decry unfair distribution of expenditure and investment at a time when Croydon is meant to be a target for growth.

The Lib Dems’ support may be sought on some votes, which could see an agreement reached with that party too – particularly if their leader is Tim Farron. Mental health might therefore rise up the agenda again.

The above-mentioned bedroom tax would be repealed, and no new free schools would be opened. Sarah Jones would probably be Croydon Central’s new MP – the first woman to represent anywhere in Croydon – and Croydon North’s Steve Reed would probably find himself as a minister at the Home Office. Another piece of complex manouevring that would impact Croydon would be that Boris Johnson, should he find himself succeeding David Cameron as Tory leader, would have to resign as Mayor of London. This would trigger a special election that current polling shows Labour would be the favourites to win. With Tessa Jowell the likely candidate, what London’s first ‘Madam Mayor’ would do for Croydon is currently unknown.

Prime Minister: Ed Miliband.

Carry On, Dave: Conservative minority (with possible DUP and UKIP support)

In brief: If the Conservatives do make gains that bring them nearer to 315 seats than the 302 they’re currently on, it’s believed that they plan to ‘go it alone’, and try to govern as a minority administration.

Impact on Croydon: Similar to a lot of the above section about a continuing Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. A Tory minority administration is likely to look to UKIP for support on confidence matters, however, and the Eurosceptic party will probably have won about four or five seats if this scenario has come to pass. Cameron would have previously hoped to work with the Democratic Unionist Party, who traditionally just require some porkbarrel spending in Northern Ireland.

However, the DUP has announced that any deal with them would likely have to involve UKIP, too, and a condition for Nigel Farage’s support is an EU referendum in 2015, not 2017. This would leave no time for Cameron’s planned ‘renegotiation’ beforehand. Despite the media narrative, polls show Britain would vote to stay in the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow. Nevertheless Croydon’s business community, much of which relies on European trade, would be worried. It’s odd to think that if the cards fall in a certain way, in a few short months we could see a borough divided over the UK’s third major referendum in four years.

Prime Minister: David Cameron (at least at first).

Ed Dawn: Small Labour majority

In brief: As above, this is unlikely. But if Scottish voters decide that they want to be sure that the Conservatives don’t ‘sneak back in’ (or something), Labour could perform better than expected north of the border and, in combination with a campaign that goes well for Ed Miliband (stop laughing) and a UKIP surge that hurts the Conservatives more than Labour (as in Croydon in May 2014), Labour could squeak in with enough MPs to govern by themselves. Just.

Impact on Croydon: Labour would still probably need support from other parties on certain matters, but the party would be free from needing to shift any spending to Scotland for political reasons. Labour’s plan to provide tax breaks for firms paying the living wage – highly popular among Londoners – would probably go ahead. Its energy price freeze would probably pass, too – though with the drop in oil prices it’s now debatable whether it would actually be a good thing now.

Cuts would still be made, but Labour plans to cut £50 billion less than the Conservatives over the next four years. Labour’s de facto rent controls plan would probably provoke another uprising from Croydon’s landlords, who are already unhappy with Croydon Labour’s licensing proposals. There would likely not be a referendum on the European Union.

Prime Minister: Ed Miliband.

Grand Coalition: Conservative-Labour coalition

In brief: Supremely unlikely in any circumstance other than a major European or global war.

Impact on Croydon: Probably a Russian Topol-M missile.

Prime Minister: Whoever is still alive.

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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  • Sean Creighton

    Whatever the result of the election austerity and cuts, especially to the less-well off members of society and to local government will continue. The Croydon Assembly set up by the Croydon TUC will be meeting again on Saturday 6 June at Ruskin House. The emphasis will be on giving people the chance to discuss the outcome of the
    General Election and the challenges facing working people as austerity policies
    are maintained. To book your ticket go to There’s also a Facebook page where you can indicate support for the Croydon

  • Anne Giles

    The Conservative-Labour Coalition looks rather interesting! :-)

  • David Callam

    I agree that the forthcoming General Election is tough to call, but it’s fun to speculate.
    I think the most likely outcome is Labour as the largest single party with a substantial increase in the SNP showing north of the border and the LibDems doing much less badly in their existing seats than the polls might suggest.
    I see these three developing an informal arrangement, rather than any coalition, with policies they can all support. And that may include a lean to the left and money made available for real affordable housing, to buy and to rent, for people in expensive places like Croydon.
    I have been an admirer of the SNP for some time, envying the standard of government they have brought to Scotland. Now the electoral arithmatic may give the rest of us a chance to share in the Scots’ good fortune.