The Public Gallery: It’s quiet. Too quiet

By - Thursday 5th March, 2015

With two months to go, Tom Black is concerned about the eerie silence around the general election in Croydon

Make some noise, candidates

General election fever is underway. The headlines every day are dominated by new policies, economic figures, setpiece speeches and, of course, gaffes. You can’t move for the election.

Except in Croydon.

This TPG was a little tricky to put together, because there actually hasn’t been too much to report this week. All parties are keeping their heads down and campaigning hard – some harder than others – but there’s been an uneasy calm over the usual flashpoints of the campaign. Barwell and Jones in Croydon Central have not come to blows on Twitter for some time, something that may have been triggered by a multi-tweet tongue-lashing that Jones delivered to Barwell after becoming sick of constantly being called ‘#SilentSarah’.

In the real world, the campaign has also been oddly muted. Barwell took Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling on a tour of central Croydon this week, while Labour’s divisive ‘pink bus’ turned up in Croydon recently and brought Sarah Jones reinforcements in the shape of Harriet Harman. But with the national picture heating up, things have stayed relatively chilled in these parts.

Perhaps that’s why. With all eyes on the national media, the candidates are keeping an unspoken truce for a little while. I wouldn’t bet on it lasting much longer – with both major candidates having promised ‘further announcements’ right up to polling day itself, this feels like the calm before a spectacular storm.

Citizen to provide platform for Croydon Central debates

After the success of the ‘head-to-head’ interview in last May’s print edition of the Citizen, it’s been decided to repeat that feature in this year’s election-themed issue, coming out in April. The two plausible contenders for the marginal seat of Croydon Central, Labour’s Sarah Jones and incumbent Conservative Gavin Barwell, have both agreed to take part.

Additionally, plans are underway to host a follow-up debate in April itself, where both Barwell and Jones will debate their answers and other topics facing Croydon and the country. Details will follow, but I’m very pleased to announce that Gavin and Sarah have confirmed they are willing to take part.

With a multitude of hustings taking place between now and the election, there will be plenty of opportunities to hear candidates from all parties have their say. The Citizen‘s debate is a chance to place greater scrutiny on the two candidates with a realistic chance of winning Croydon Central – and whose parties stand a realistic chance of leading the country.

I’ll be chairing the Citizen debate, but I don’t want to let other hustings fall by the wayside. If you or your organisation are running a hustings for any of the three Croydon seats, please  and I will advertise it here in TPG, and if possible attend to provide livetweet coverage.

The first radio broadcast of The Public Gallery is this Sunday

Starting live at 7pm on Croydon Radio, I’ll be kicking off my monthly radio show with a look back at February and a look foward to the election. In the first half of the programme, I’ll be looking at one of the big cultural events of last month: the St George’s Walk murals. Later, I’ll be discussing Croydon Council’s so-called ‘communication problem’. Are the numerous U-turns and apparent missteps by the incumbent administration the result of poor communication with the public, or something deeper? Is it the only institution in Croydon that has a communication problem?

My guests are to be confirmed, but I’m hoping for a lively discussion as well as a round-up of what’s appeared in the Citizen recently and some thoughts about the rapidly approaching general election. I hope you’re able to tune in, or catch the podcast.

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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  • Robert Ward

    Excellent initiative. Well done Tom and Co. It has been a bit of a phoney war up till now. Look forward to a constructive dialogue starting soon.

  • Anne Giles

    Looking forward to the Croydon Radio programme!