The Public Gallery: And the winner is…

By - Thursday 14th November, 2013

Chris Philp wins Croydon South selection

Well, I did say predicting the future was a mug’s game. My prediction for the Tory nod in Croydon South, Charlotte Vere, was eliminated in the first round of voting on Tuesday evening. The winner, gaining a majority of votes in the second round, was 37 year old Chris Philp.

The process was rigorous but ‘good-natured’, according to Tory sources. Candidates were quizzed on a variety of subjects and Philp apparently performed confidently. Two hundred Croydon South Tories attended the selection meeting, and were not allowed to vote unless they stayed for the entire meeting – all candidates were to be granted a fair hearing. In a room that contained more than its fair share of elderly people, however, this proved problematic as many complained of a need to use the toilet during the two hour meeting.

The selection of Philp has led to a bit of a kerfuffle in among Croydon’s political classes. Of a 75% female shortlist, the Croydon South Conservatives elected the only male candidate. This, to some, was a sign of backwardness or worse. Whatever the motivations for the selection of Philp, it is admittedly unlikely that the voters were basing their decisions on what would make the party appear modern – particularly in Croydon South! But it’s still a problematic ‘visual’ – after eight years of ‘Cameron the moderniser’ leading their party, the Conservative members in a safe seat have selected another white, middle class male. In the week that David Cameron announced a permanent state of austerity while wearing white tie and stood next to a solid gold throne, one has to wonder whether the Tories’ image consultants are banging their heads against their desks.

It’s difficult to conceive that at least some prejudice wasn’t involved in the rejection of 75% of the ballot in favour of the 25% that could use the toilet standing up

The selection caused hardcore Tory loyalist Anne Giles to break rank for the first time in recorded history, declaring on Twitter on Tuesday night that she was ‘gutted’ with the result. Others pointed to Tory aide Mario Creatura’s article against all-women shortlists, in which he argued that a meritocracy was perfectly capable of selecting women – this appears somewhat naive, or at least wishful, now that it’s difficult to conceive that at least some prejudice wasn’t involved in the rejection of 75% of the ballot in favour of the 25% that could use the toilet standing up.

But Mr Philp himself ought not to be taken to task about the circumstances of his election. His positions and beliefs, however, warrant some scrutiny.

Image by The Freedom Association. Used under Creative Commons license.

Philp is pictured above addressing the hard-right Freedom Association (which gained notoriety in the 1980s for opposing the cricket boycott of apartheid-era South Africa, and recently expressed an interest in becoming ‘the British Tea Party’) in September about his Taxpayers’ Alliance-funded paper Work for the Dole: A proposal to fix Welfare Dependency. In said paper he proposed a change in the law requiring people on benefits to do unpaid work and training in order to continue receiving payments – a move that will ingratiate him with Iain Duncan Smith but not, perhaps, with moderate Croydonians.

Philp’s apparent status as a radical right firebrand makes him an interesting choice to replace Richard Ottaway, a fairly traditional Tory who got wetter as he got older, culminating in his vote for marriage equality this year.

There’s also a definite sense that Philp, while not representing a change in party for Croydon South, may bring a new energy to Croydon politics. Ottaway is not known for a high level of local engagement, preferring instead to pursue a career as a backbench parliamentarian. He will retire from his seat having spent the last five years as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee – a worthy post, but little comfort to those of his constituents frustrated by lack of reply to letters, or the receipt of obvious central government templates when matters of policy are questioned.

The presence of a distinctly Thatcherite MP-in-waiting in the south of the borough may impact voters in Croydon Central

Philp, by contrast, is not only a more radical operator than Ottaway, he’ll also be a new MP hungry for recognition. Unlike Gavin Barwell, he will be in a safe seat and not therefore required to appear locally active for his own survival. That being said, his first few years in office, at least until an apparently inevitable frontbench or committee appointment, should see him become very prominent in Croydon South and the borough as a whole. Steve Reed and Gavin Barwell already maintain a strong presence, and Croydon’s third MP joining them after 2015 (if Barwell is himself still in office by then) will be a welcome shift in Croydon’s dynamic.

In 2015, Philp will become the MP for Croydon South. This much is obvious. But there are wider consequences from this week’s decision. Philp is from a very different wing of the Tories to Barwell, who is sometimes described as being in the ‘practically Lib Dem bit’ of the Conservatives, and certainly a moderate. The presence of a distinctly Thatcherite MP-in-waiting in the south of the borough may impact voters in Croydon Central favourable to Barwell but unhappy with the broad church his party represents. Equally, the charges of ‘sexist Tories’ will hang around the necks of Croydon’s Conservatives for some time, justifiably or otherwise. It remains to be seen whether all this will undo the gains the Tories will make from selecting an active, motivated and ‘radical’ candidate in Croydon South.

Local Tory attacks on radio presenter leave a bad taste in the mouth

Croydon Radio’s Bieneosa Ebite, who last week aided my analysis of Croydon South’s Tory shortlist, has been under fire in recent weeks from local Conservative Party members. They seem keen to imply that Ebite is biased against them and overly supportive of Croydon Labour, and rather harsh attacks on her credibility have been made against her – including from quite senior figures in the local Tories. Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, has in the past enjoyed a good working relationship with Ebite. However, he is now one of her most outspoken critics on Twitter.

The attacks do seem to be limited to Twitter. Comments in Croydon Radio’s ‘shoutbox’ during Ebite’s broadcasts have not criticised her show for any bias. It should be remembered that local voters are not swayed or even aware of most Twitter spats – as indeed Barwell’s own aide (who is himself one of those questioning Ebite’s impartiality) pointed out here on the Citizen. But the treatment of Ebite is starting to leave a bad taste in the mouth of those of us who see it happen, very publicly, on what feels like a weekly basis.

There are two possible reasons all this has come about. The first is a genuine perception among Croydon’s Tories that Ebite’s (small-c) citizen journalism is biased against them. Coupled with the looming election in 2014, such a perception would of course create tension and lead to some of the ruder, more snide and inappropriate comments being made against Ebite. But, as I explore below, there isn’t a whole lot of justification for their allegations.

It sets a dangerous precedent for any political party to have a public image of ‘critique us and we will say you are obviously supportive of the other side’

The other potential explanation is that there is a concerted effort being made to silence Ebite. Personally, I’m not sure I believe this is the case, but from the outside it can at times appear that this is the case. It sets a dangerous precedent for any political party to have a public image of ‘critique us and we will say you are obviously supportive of the other side’, and brings to mind the regular accusations that the BBC has left or right wing biases, depending on who you’re speaking to at the time.

Bieneosa Ebite, presenter of Croydon Radio’s In The Loop

I suspect the first reason is the main motivation for the Tories’ actions. The attacks seemed to start with the publication of this article on the Citizen, in which Ebite criticised Gavin Barwell for saying one thing and doing another when it came to BME issues. It’s true that the article is a robust critique, and there are other occasions in which Ebite has criticised the Conservatives, but the response seems to have been disproportionate and not in the spirit of democracy.

Ebite now finds herself in something of a vicious cycle – she is criticised for an alleged bias against the Tories, she defends herself publicly against the attacks from Conservative members, and then is accused of further bias because of her attempts to defend herself. Matters came to a head when Tony Pearson, Tory councillor in New Addington, accused Ebite of being ‘Labour’s poodle’. While an apology was issued and a clarification that he did not mean to insinuate that she was a dog, the event was sadly symptomatic of an increasingly nasty political discourse in Croydon.

Anyone who listened to the most recent edition of Bieneosa’s In The Loop (on which I was a guest) would be puzzled by the accusations. One of her guests was Prem Goyal, who was keen to inform her listeners about Labour’s ‘disrespect’ for ethnic minorities and failure to incorporate them sufficiently into their local organisations. Twenty minutes later, the leader of Croydon Labour’s council group, Tony Newman, was presented with a series of questions from members of the public which were far from easy-going. Questioners took Newman to task on police figures, waste and even allegations of ‘nasty’ behaviour. If Ebite were a ‘Labour poodle’, playing hardball with Labour’s local government leader in Croydon was a strange way of showing it.

Ebite’s programme and the service she provides in podcasting council and public meetings is valuable to Croydon. For the benefit of our borough’s discourse, I hope those pursuing this attack on her credibility can remind themselves of this and cease their apparent attempts to shut her down.

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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  • Brendan Walsh

    What voting system was used to dump Charlotte Vere out in the first round? If I remember correctly from the No to AV campaign, that both Vere and Philp were prominent in, anyone who suggested anything other than First Past The Post should be hung for treason. Don’t tell me it’s one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us.

    • Tom Black

      It was multiple round voting, a la Tory leadership elections pre-IDS (and post-, if you ignore the last round that ballots the whole membership).

      • Brendan Walsh

        Why not FPTP?

        • Tom Black

          I imagine they wanted a candidate with the support of at least 50% of the voters – and I do see where you’re going with this ;)

          • Anne Giles

            I was one of the interviewers in the first round and I voted for Charlotte. She was wonderful. On the Tuesday she was a little more nervous, as were the other ladies, but still good. There were a lot of elderly people there (I still count myself as being young in spirit) and people whose religious beliefs put them against gay marriage. That was a question she was asked and she was very much for it. A group of us on leaving all said that we were gutted, as we felt that more women were needed in Parliament. My feeling is that the women were friendly and warm and the sort of people one would invite into one’s home. Chris performed better on Tuesday, so was elected, but some of us did vote for Charlotte.

          • Tom Black

            Thank you for those insights, Anne. The point about gay marriage is somewhat enlightening.

  • Anne Giles

    The Freedom Association? Help!

  • Christian Wilcox

    It isn’t just Croydon.

    Basically the whole Tory-Eton movement is now firing on ethnic people. Most likely to pick up EDL votes.

    You’re twice as likely to be unemployed or homeless if you are black. And yet, according to Joseph Rowntree, those hit by the Benefits Cap are… 90% BME & London-based. About 50% black. Only about 5% white.

    Education has been cut leaving a lot of Poor people only ever in a position to get a few decent GCSE’s now. So that’s a life of cleaning jobs etc etc. No management places. No Uni, limited college ( for hair-dressing naturally ), and it’s still VERY hard to get a job if your name sounds foreign. Lot’s of BME servants basically…

    So mostly BME people get no real education and are much easier to exploit ( too poor for Lawyers etc etc ). And… All of this to serve the wealth around here. Who are mostly white. Those new flats in the City Centre? I’m confident they’ll end up mostly White as well…

    British Empire of around 1890 anyone? Or 1930′s Nazi Germany if you really want to go into it. ‘Starve or leave’ stuff is now VERY real for our ethnic friends. Their training options are limited as, generally, their community wealth is much less than that of White people.

    It’s also well documented that the Tory party is mostly White Middle Class loaded types. And the new money in London is huge & Russian ( White & Christian ). Who aren’t overly keen on migrants either… And the new boom in London is… Property development. Mr Philip’s game…

    Bieneosa spoke out against them. So they are deliberately trying to put her out of business knowing that if she falls here she’s finished. Much easier to exploit or force (by starving) to leave… Remove the critics, command, & control. And then starve BME types into being exploited for maximum profit, giving them the option of fleeing if they don’t like it ( to Hull or foreign shores. Typically with no money to help them, so with a high risk of homelessness. Homeless people die, on average, 30 years younger than the average Joe ).

    Hence the 1930′s Germany comparison. That was the choice the Jews and Blacks had around 1933. Like it or leave. Scary stuff eh?

    They’ve tried the same with me. For real. A smear campaign across the Selsdon/Forestdale area working with a few BNP households. Hence why I still, even now, have to do the odd ‘rumour-squish’ blog/tweet to clean up the mess. Apparently I was ruined by drugs ( part of the ‘he’s crazy & should be ignored’ thing )…

    Both myself and B are known for criticising the Victorian/Imperial/Nazi-esq Torys ( we have different styles sure, but it’s the same critique. Racial equality, workers rights, etc etc ), and we’re both being smeared by them for this. It’s not a coincidence.

    • Anne Giles

      Mind you, Chris, there are a lot of working class Tories in New Addington, living in social housing as well. Many Conservatives are not at all wealthy. My pension is £171 a week and my Disability Living Allowance £21.00. Not a lot.

      • Christian Wilcox

        Do you own your Selsdon House outright?

        • Anne Giles

          At the age of 72, I should hope so. After spending many years working full time in a day job and teaching three nights a week as well – yes.

          • Christian Wilcox

            So you’re sitting on about 300 grands worth of property, all of it yours, and yet you claim to be poor.

            Either your age is getting to you or someone is telling porky-pies.

            The big problem is that the lifestyle enjoyed by so many Baby-boomers was unsustainable. In the 80′s the North & West was sacrificed to pay for it, and now it’s BME people & kids being sacrificed.

            You aren’t poor OR working class I assure you. This is why you Torys must be stopped.

          • Anne Giles

            I wish my house was worth that much. Dearie me. Dearie, dearie, dearie me. Oh dear. Dearie me. My safest bet is to keep away – tattie bye.

          • Anne Giles

            In order to solve the issue of my having the audacity to live in a house, I am now getting ready to move into the garden shed.

          • Tom Black

            Isn’t that remark about age somewhat rude, Chris? And ‘porky-pies’ is really very patronising language. Coupled with your vast overestimation of the value of Anne’s house (presumably for rhetorical purposes), I have to say you’re not coming across very well here.

            And, to clarify, why does Anne not being poor or working class (though I think both assertions are debatable, not least with Anne herself) mean the ‘Torys [sic] must be stopped’? And, by extension, are you trying to argue that no working class (or poor) Tories exist at all?

            Your point about the baby-boomer generation is a sound one, I’m just struggling to get to grips with the rest of what you’re saying.

          • Christian Wilcox

            No. If you check you’ll see Selsdon Property values are actually in pretty good shape.

            So Anne is not telling the truth when she claims to be poor. There are 2 possible reasons for this:

            1) Mental decline ( most likely due to old age ). Only 1 in 6 Baby-boomers have retired in good health.

            2) A simple old-fashioned hustle.

            Just because she is old does not make her sweet & innocent. It has never worked that way.

            Working Class have not been to Uni, graft for a living, and usually do not own £300k’s worth of house. As for who they vote for that is their choice.

            The Torys must be stopped? You’re supposed to be a Lefty and you don’t get it? Blimey :/

          • Tom Black

            I continue to find it very inappropriate that you continue to publicly speculate about someone else’s financial (and now medical) situation. I don’t particularly care how well-off Anne is or isn’t, and it’s the worst kind of gutter identity politics that is driving your obsession with this. I also find it somewhat distasteful for a university-educated ex-private schoolboy to be lecturing someone about who is or is not working class based on whether they went to uni – and I say that as a university-educated ex-private schoolboy myself! We went to the same school, did we not?

            ‘The Torys must be stopped? You’re supposed to be a Lefty and you don’t get it? Blimey :/’ – that’s not what I said. I’ve seen plenty of things the Conservatives are doing and thought it’d be a good idea to stop them, but I asked you why this specific sentence: ‘You aren’t poor OR working class I assure you’ means the Tories (the correct spelling of that word) ‘must be stopped’. I still don’t see why Anne not being poor or working class (which, again, she may be) means the Tories ‘must be stopped’, rather than, say, the bedroom tax meaning they should be stopped.

            Please stop being deliberately obtuse – it’s where you get your widespread reputation as a troll.

          • Christian Wilcox

            And this is why I had to block you. You don’t believe in free speech, and let off the bad-guys faaaar too much.

            You are no expert. Anne clearly stated she owned her house ( not a flat ) in Selsdon outright. I then used the pricing indexes readily available to everyone to show that Anne was not poor ( she’s sitting on at least £230k and on average £300k ).

            I then gave you 2 options as to why Anne would make a false statement like that. One is Mental Decline, and sadly the other is exploitation ( a hustle ). There is a third, but that one IS rude ( and also highly unlikely as she used to teach ).

            I wasn’t aware the Croydon citizen had become a Private Members Club already. I’ve tried to talk medicine on here before and been vetoed by you. Looks like you are still speculating about something you are not cleared to speculate on…

          • Tom Black

            Okay, Chris. When you have an interest in replying to the actual questions I’m asking you, rather than trying to fallaciously direct the debate through weird attacks on me and other commenters, I’ll be happy to discuss this with you again – perhaps on Wednesday, after Barwell’s public meeting? It’s always better to clear things up in person in my experience.

            Though I will add that ‘this is why I had to block you. You don’t believe in free speech’ is a superb piece of mental gymnastics! Beautifully hypocritical.

          • Anne Giles

            Free Speech? Chris – had you put these insulting comments on either the Advertiser or Croydon Guardian online publications, there is a section where one can request that a person is blocked. Then one has to say why. You would have then been classed as abusive and your comments would have been removed forthwith. I have successfully had people removed before. I don’t tolerate abuse and police have intervened once in the past before. You were chatting to me once in Selsdon and you told me that you had mental health problems and that you were taking medication for that. I was quite sympathetic. However, I am not suffering from any mental decline whatsoever. If I was, then I would not have been asked to a) interview prospective MPs; b) joint the British Transport Police PACT Team and c) attend the CCPCG at the Town Hall.
            Nor have I ever, ever announced that I am poor. I was simply replying to your comment about all of us in Selsdon being wealthy. Looking at those houses that that estate agent is showing over £300,000 – I do not live in one of those. Also – there are two of us here. It is a small house with a tiny garden. I consider someone wealthy when they live in a detached house, drive expensive cars and earn top salaries. I am therefore not wealthy, but neither am I poor.
            I never went to University. I asked my father if I could go and he told me that he could only afford to send one of us and it had to be the boy. You lucky thing. You went!!!

          • Christian Wilcox

            Selsdon Properties:


            Ooh look, 300 grand…

  • Terry Coleman

    Judging on the Wiki entry for Mr Philp, I would say Croydon South Conservatives have made a wise choice. An MP with a Scientific and Engineering background must surely be good for the town.

    • Tom Black

      I agree it’s good to see someone with a Physics degree on the verge of entering Parliament, but that same Wiki article suggests his work since university has been in management consultancy, recruiting and retail – not exactly the career of a scientist! If I get the chance to put some questions to him (I hope to soon) I will definitely ask for clarification on this.