The Public Gallery: The UK Independents Party (sic)

By - Thursday 21st November, 2013

UKIP to target Addiscombe, New Addington and Coulsdon

Some of Croydon’s true blue areas may turn purple in 2014, if Croydon’s UKIP leader is to be believed.

Speaking on Bieneosa Ebite’s radio show In The Loop, Addiscombe resident Peter Staveley revealed the target wards for the eurosceptic party, which advocates withdrawal from the European Union and “an end to the age of mass, uncontrolled immigration”. Listeners may have wondered what such a party has to offer on a local level. Croydon’s councillors were this year lambasted for debating a withdrawal from the European Union in an all-council meeting, and rightly so – they have not one iota of authority to do anything about Britain’s membership of the EU.

Staveley, however, explained what UKIP aims to do in local government. Rejecting the idea of a party ‘whip’ – a system whereby elected representatives do what their party leadership tells them to – he said that any UKIP councillors in Croydon would vote in accordance with the needs and wishes of the residents of their wards. “I’ll be surprised,” he said, “if over the next four years people in one part of the borough don’t need to vote differently to people from another part of the borough.” A fair point, and one that will not be lost on voters in Croydon unhappy with the exceptionally ‘party line’ state of affairs in Katharine Street politics. It is this whipless form of local government that has led to UKIP in some parts of the country becoming known as little more than a loose alliance of independent councillors – culminating in the nickname ‘the UK Independents Party’.

Staveley cited the 2010 vote totals as evidence for his claim that UKIP may do well in Purley and Coulsdon in 2014. With the withdrawal of the council’s masterplan for the latter this week, and increasing dis- affection among traditionally right-wing voters in the south of the borough, an upset may be more likely than the council think. Staveley went on to say that he is himself standing in Addiscombe, which was won by the Tories in 2006 and retaken by Labour in 2010. Ancellam Nnorom, also on the programme, is standing in Woodside and was keen to rubbish the view that UKIP is a racist party. Nnorom also made the claim that the European Union was likely to collapse because it is like the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union eventually collapsed. I know it’s been a while since I graduated in History, but I for one was left scratching my head.

It wasn’t the only questionable fact on the show, though Staveley deserves credit for not descending into the scaremongering behaviour of UKIP leader Nigel Farage (Nnorom, however, did make some unfortunately broad statements about immigration). Staveley did however call into question the claim that the EU deserves credit for a “peaceful Europe”. That, he said, was to do with NATO, “so that’s how they do that.” Unfortunately, it remains a fact that two EU member states have never been to war with one another – the same cannot be said for NATO after the 1974 war between member states Greece and Turkey.

‘The UKIP Factor’ was first talked about in my first TPG in September, in the context of the 2015 General Election. The local elections next year will bring it to the fore with more immediacy. Under Croydon’s electoral system, UKIP could prove a powerful spoiler for the Tories – where they take Tory votes but don’t win themselves, allowing Labour to win. Matters are complicated further by the facts that the European elections are on the same day as the locals, and that UKIP takes more votes from Labour than most people assume. The level of electoral analysis involved in working out what’s likely to happen is worthy of an article of its own, and there’s a good chance you’ll see one here on the Citizen in the near future.

Underpaid, overpaid, wombling free

Thanks to The Croydon Advertiser for following up TPG’s story three weeks ago about unpaid employees at Croydon Village Outlet. While a comment was sought but withheld from the Citizen, the Advertiser’s Gareth Davies had more luck. Marco Cash, the boisterous Chief Executive of the CVO, was prepared to explain his side of the story in detail. TPG readers curious to know the full story can find it here, but here’s a precis: Marco Cash denies anyone was underpaid, claims that wages were actually overpaid by £22,000 due to a clerical error, and that the person responsible has left the company. The Advertiser’s source, however, claimed that some staff members were very definitely not paid in October – but have been now.

What will this mean for CVO? Shoppers and residents are already hardening in their opinions towards it, with my entirely unscientific research finding few favourable opinions of the ‘outlet’. After this colossal internal failure spilled out into a PR disaster, there will continue to be those who point out the possibility raised in TPG some time ago; if the CVO simply continues to exist long enough to raise the price of the compulsory purchase order that Minerva (the owners of the former Allders site) are going to receive as Westfield takes shape, it will perhaps have done its job.

What can the Citizen do to improve its political coverage?

Finally this week, I’m asking for feedback. Last Thursday the Citizen celebrated its first birthday, and announced that we’re going into print. This wouldn’t be possible without you. In fact, it won’t be possible at all unless we raise enough money for it. In the spirit of making the Citizen the best it can be, I’d like to know what you’d like to see me do as the Citizen’s Political Correspondent – both in terms of what I do personally, and in terms of what you’d like to see me bring about. Last night, for example, I livetweeted Gavin Barwell’s public meeting on regeneration – would you like to see more livetweets? Or perhaps fewer? Do you know someone with an underrepresented political view who should be writing for us? Put them in touch with me and I’ll certainly see what I can do.

Finally, as I said to those of you who were at our birthday party last week, thank you for reading. This is my eleventh TPG, and I certainly wouldn’t have have got this far without my readers and those of you who comment below the line. Often the debate down there is more feisty than that which I’ve reported! If you do feel you want to help the Citizen take the bold step into the world of print, please do consider giving us a few quid.

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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  • Liz Sheppard-Jones

    Fascinating as always. Have to say, though, that I didn’t sympathise much with the lambasters. Granted, I’d rather the councillors engaged with the mess in my North Croydon street, but I work with people seeking to expand their businesses and trade outside the UK and the organisations in Croydon which advise them. Our continued membership of the EU isn’t irrelevant on a local level and the more people in Croydon who understand why we should oppose leaving, the better.

    • Tom Black

      Thanks for reading, Liz. I think in the specific case mentioned, the ‘lambasters’ (wonderful term) were angry that a full council meeting – which only happens once a month – was being used to discuss something councillors had no legal power to do anything about, when plenty of local issues were being left by the wayside. I wouldn’t mind hearing Mssrs Newman, Fisher, Barwell, Reed et al take to the airwaves and newsprint to discuss and debate the EU and what Croydon gets from it, but in a full meeting that could’ve been used for binding votes that actually matter (to put it crudely), it seemed to many to be a waste of time.

      • lizsheppardjourno

        Thanks for info. One should, however, always draw attention to unwarranted lambastification :)

    • Peter Staveley

      I too wish to help local businesses, being a small business myself.

      Can I ask, why is it better to be shackled to a customs unions whose economies are shrinking and so their level of trade is reducing and which imposes lots of regulations on small businesses that cost large amounts of money?

      Surely it is better to be able to trade freely with the rest of the World and particularly with the Commonwealth whose economy is growing?

      Are you saying that if we were to leave the EU that we could not trade with the EU when the UK is the EU’s biggest market?

      • lizsheppardjourno

        The business case for remaining within the EU is a very powerful one. Our membership is worth between £62 and £78 billion per year to the UK economy – at least according to the CBI. The benefits of the international influence membership brings us are trickier to calculate, as is the potential loss of that influence by marginalising our country.
        I’m not a blind Euro-enthusiast and I have reservations, particularly around the effects membership of the single currency has had on southern European nations. Up to now this has been a rich northerners’ club, and it’s in need of reform. But wandering off into an ex-colonial wilderness is the road to decline & irrelevance.

        • Peter Staveley

          I certainly would not take anything the CBI say at face value. Most people seem to have forgotten that the CBI were vehemently determined that the UK would go into the Euro and we all know what happened to that currency!

          The CBI only represents the interests of big businesses, these are businesses that can absorb the high cost of EU regulation and like employing people on the lowest wage they can get away with.

          The EU is not good value for small businesses since they cannot afford that cost of regulation.

          Tim Congdon, an eminent economist, has for the last few years been calculating the true cost to the GDP of the UK. His annual publication is peer-reviewed and, as far as I know, most economists do not dispute his calculations and the resulting figures. In 2013 the total cost of the UK’s EU membership is estimated to be about 11% of GDP, which is between £165 billion and £170 billion per year. Are the benefits that you envisage we derive from being in the EU greater than that figure?

          The UK has virtually no influence in the EU. We have 8% of the votes (and falling) and, following the European Constitution/ Lisbon Treaty (for which all Parties promised a referendum and failed to deliver), there are virtually no votes where we now have a veto.

          The UK exports to the EU is going down but the UK exports to the rest of the World are going up, yet we are prevented from negotiating our own trade deals with countries outside of the EU, the EU does that.

          The EU is unreformable. We either stay in while it becomes the United States of Europe or we get out and retain our own Sovereignty where we can forge our own links with the growing markets of India, China and South America.

          • Tom Black

            Tim Congdon might well be an eminent economist, but he’s also a member of UKIP. He ran for the leadership in 2010, in fact. I don’t know what this means for his calculations, and wouldn’t seek to speculate – but if you are calling into question the biases of the CBI, I feel it is fair to do the same to Mr Congdon.

            Incidentally, Mr Congdon plays an important role in an excellent recent political counterfactual, ‘The Fourth Lectern’, in which UKIP enter the 2010 General Election TV debates. As Nigel Farage is still ‘focusing on the Speaker’s seat’ (I imagine that’s still something of a sore point, Peter!), the untelegenic Pearson is quickly removed and Tim Congdon takes centre stage as party leader. It’s a great story, I recommend it.

          • Peter Staveley

            I would be happy to confirm the bias of my sources if other people confirm the bias of their sources.

            If you remember I was told that the EU is worth “between £62 and £78 billion per year to the UK economy – at least according to the CBI.” The point I was trying to make was that the CBI is far from an impartial source. I had assumed that readers would understand that my source could also be biased. Indeed many things that politicians say will have some bias in it.

            Similarly lobby groups, such as the CBI, will have their own agenda and readers should remember that. What I suggest it that when politicians (of all parties) throw statistics around that readers do their own independent research to find what the unbiased view is and then make their own view of the issues.

            Regarding the cost of the EU, unfortunately no UK Government (of any Party) has commissioned a full Cost:Benefit study of the EU which is annoying for UKIP. So we have to do our own research and publish that.

            Regarding Tim’s work, I have found it for sale at but I cannot find a PDF 2013 version on the Internet (although I would be happy to forward a copy to readers). The 2012 version’s are online but, obviously, the figures are slightly out of date.

  • Anne Giles

    The view I have about the EU is that we should stay in, provided we can renegotiate with Europe, so that the whole human rights scenario whereby a terrorist is allowed to stay in this country instead of being deported can be changed. Our original membership was vastly different. Re immigration – we want well qualified people to come and work here. What we don’t want are masses of people coming over to claim benefits.

    • Peter Staveley

      By renegotiation you mean taking a few powers back from the EU to Westminster. Unfortunately both the political class and the EU itself are not interested in removing powers from the EU. In fact recently President Barroso (the unelected President of the European Commission) confirmed that there is no chance of ‘renegotiating’ EU powers and also confirmed that it is essential that the EU becomes a Federal Government (a United States of Europe).

      If the Conservatives win the General Election, and if David Cameron is still the Prime Minister, and if he actually gets the current Referendum Bill through Parliament then it is possible that a couple of very minor powers will be returned to the UK. But any repatriation of powers will be something like “we would be permitted to fish for Herrings in The Solent” and certainly would not be any change in Human Rights.

      Of course David Cameron promised a referendum in 2009 and that did not happen. Will there be a referendum in 2017?

      • Anne Giles

        I think there will be. I certainly hope so.