Croydon communists share the dismay and disappointment of our friends in the three Croydon Constituency Labour Parties at the general election results last night. Their own results were good, with Croydon North and Croydon Central (a marginal) retained and a little bit of a shock for the Tories in the smug Tory heartlands of Croydon South due to a spirited campaign focussing on school cuts. Although we questioned Labour’s decision to abandon their commitment in the 2017 manifesto to implement the EU Referendum, we recognised (although didn’t agree with) the argument that this was a strategic necessity given the leave/remain split amongst Labour voters and we welcomed many of the other commitments in the manifesto for this election. How sad the strategy failed. This was the true cause of the results last night, not, as the right wing of the Labour Party are already claiming, a shift too far left.
An internal battle inside the Labour Party for its future has already begun and the prospects don’t look good. The Parliamentary Labour Party is even further to the right than it was before the general election and it’s hard to believe they would allow another left wing candidate to stand, even assuming a credible candidate could be found. The left won’t easily surrender the gains they have made in the constituency parties but it nevertheless seems inevitable that much of the political struggle for the next five years will have to be extra-parliamentary and ‘on the streets’. The prime target? Aside from fighting Austerity and advancing privatisation, it has to be exposing Tory acceptance of global warming and their implicit belief that the 0.1% who fund them can insulate themselves from the consequences.
While the Croydon Communist Party’s election campaign in Croydon North gathers pace, let’s take a break and look at what’s happening in Croydon South. Notwithstanding some nervousness by the Tory candidate, Chris Philip, over UKIP – in his election address he blames the Tory’s loss of Croydon Council last year to Labour by 10 seats to UKIP defections – this seat is a plumb job for life for whoever the Tory Party selects. This is especially true if the appointee can keep his previous business interests going. Who can live on an MP’s salary of £74,000 these days?
This will suit Mr Philip. He’s a Cambridge graduate in physics, which means he’s smart and expert in mathematics. Like many with this qualification, however, he turned his back on physics and applied his skills to the murky but more lucrative world of finance, i.e. those clever people who brought the economy to its knees in 2007-8, not, as the Tories would have you believe, the Labour Party by employing too many nurses. Having abandoned physics he went to work for McKenzie, the US consultants and wheeler dealers, then left (following a well trodden path) to start his own businesses in ‘distribution’. His election address says he drove the delivery van himself at the beginning, but don’t be fooled: he’s a money man through and through. He sold the business in no time at all and must now be a (multi?) millionaire. Then he went on to become a co-founder and partner in Pluto Finance, a business that lends to developers of luxury apartments. Their most prominent investment in the UK is a 36 apartment development in West Hampstead in which a one bedroom apartment sell for £0.5 million, two bedrooms for £0.7 million. Just what the UK housing crisis needs!
So much for the man. What about the policies Mr Philip is putting before his electors? He would like to take credit for the new A&E unit in Croydon University Hospital, ignoring the fact that it has been failing due to Tory cuts. He brags about the government having created 1.8 million new jobs but doesn’t mention zero hours contracts and job insecurity. But then even the Labour Party doesn’t these days mention the best form of job security, strong trade unions. He says he wants to protect the NHS while ignoring the fact that his government is responsible for its current parlous state. Most ludicrous of all, he would like to “hold Southern Rail to account” for its “terrible performance”. it doesn’t need holding to account, it needs to be stripped of its franchise and for the service to be re-nationalised.
Unfortunately, we are going to have to get used to Mr Philip and his foibles. It’s said that the voters of Croydon South will vote for anyone provided he (and it usually is he) wears a blue rosette. Provided Mr Philip can avoid the slip ups that tend to beset Tory MPs in safe seats, he’s likely to be around for a long time.