This morning, our candidate for Croydon North, Andy Stranack, was contacted by the media about an open letter addressed to him from Labour's candidate Steve Reed. Here it is in full:
You’re a nice guy. You care about people and you’ve done excellent work for local charities.
But you are the front man for David Cameron and his cronies on Croydon Council.
So, it’s time for you to come clean about five issues that are angering Croydon North people
1. Do you support the £100, 000 cut in funding for the Upper Norwood Joint Library imposed by Conservative Croydon councillors? As you know As leader of Lambeth council I guaranteed to immediate future of the library.
2. Do you support Tory plans to build an incinerator in Waddon?
3. Do you support the £40,000 tax cut for millionaires while hard working families are seeing tax credits cut.
4. Do you support the Tory mayor’s plan to close South Norwood library.
5. Aren’t you ashamed that Tory policies have made youth unemployment in Croydon North higher than in any nearby constituency?
I know life has been a struggle for you at times, just as it is for many people in Croydon North today. But you are Cameron’s man in this by election. And people are saying “We gave Cameron a chance. He’s blown it.” That will be the message from the ballot box on November 29th
Three points spring to mind.
First, you know a campaign is going well when Labour are forced to admit our candidate is a) "a nice guy" b) "cares about people" and c) has "done excellent work for local charities". Steve Reed deserves some credit for saying these things - there are many politicians who would never say this about an opponent, whatever they thought privately.
Second, one of the arguments we have made during this campaign is that being local matters - it's not essential, but it is important because a) it gives you a passion for the place you are trying to represent and b) you are more likely to know what the local issues are and the history behind them. Andy, who lives in Croydon and works on the London Road, is much more local than Steve, who is a Brixton councillor, we argue. This has outraged various Labour types on Twitter, some of whom would have us believe that being local doesn't matter at all and others of whom argue that Steve doesn't live that far away and Lambeth isn't that different from Croydon North and we are generally making a mountain out of a molehill. We have countered that Lambeth may not be geographically far away but it's a different local authority with a different political culture and that matters.
This letter proves our point. Three times, Steve gets basic local issues wrong:
- he refers to "Tory plans to build an incinerator in Waddon". There are no such plans (a planning application has been submitted for an Energy Recovery Facility, which uses incineration, in Beddington in the London Borough of Sutton however);
- he refers to "the Tory mayor’s plan to close South Norwood library". The Mayor of London isn't responsible for our libraries and there is no plan to close South Norwood Library (there is speculation about the future of South Norwood Police Station however); and
- he says that "Tory policies have made youth unemployment in Croydon North higher than in any nearby constituency". The economic problems of Croydon North are deep-seated and youth unemployment in Croydon North was higher than in all but one of the neighbouring constituencies when Labour were in Government.
Third and most worrying of all is his description of Andy as “the front man for David Cameron and his cronies on Croydon Council”. Andy has rightly replied, "I am a Conservative because I believe in supporting the family, in rewarding hard work and that we have a responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves that can’t be discharged just by paying taxes. But I’m absolutely clear that if elected on 29th November my job will be to stand up for the interests of the people of Croydon North, not just do what my party tells me". The fact that Steve appears to see himself as the front man for Ed Miliband and the Labour Group on Croydon Council is further evidence that he is not the right person to take over from Malcolm Wicks. Malcolm would never have described himself in those terms.