Weary Labour eyes hoping for some crumbs of comfort turned to Croydon Central this morning only to see Conservative MP Gavin Barwell defeat Labour’s Sarah Jones by just 165 votes. It had been one of the key target marginal seats Labour needed to win to have any chance of power. In the two other Croydon constituencies, party politics maintained the status quo.
The race in Central was close and the result was delayed by a bundle recount and then a full recount, with the result only being declared at about 6am. As it happened, 22,753 voters decided to vote Tory, making up 43 per cent of the vote – a 4 per cent gain over the party’s 2010 result.
Barwell said afterwards: “It was a rather stressful night.”
He added words of commiseration for his opponent: “It’s inevitable with this result that you feel bitterly disappointed, but you should be proud of what you’ve done”. Jones was visibly crushed and kept her head down as she fought the tears throughout the declaration.
Jones increased her vote share by 9 per cent to 42.7 per cent. She congratulated Barwell, but could not hide her disappointment. “It’s just galling, isn’t it? Somehow, when it is so close, you wish it could have gone the other way”, she told exhausted journalists.
Labour’s Steve Reed held Croydon North with a 63 per cent share of the vote. In his acceptance speech, Reed said: “I will continue to tackle the biggest shortage of school places in the country, more affordable homes, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and an end to poverty wages. And an apprenticeship for every young person.”
Conservative Vidhi Mohan finished second with 12,149 votes. Winston McKenzie of UKIP received 2,899 votes, or a 5 per cent share of the votes, almost tying with the Green Party’s Shasha Khan who trailed closely behind with 2,515. Liberal Democrat candidate Joanna Corbin received 1,919 votes or 4 per cent.
Mohan’s popularity with voters increased this election – in 2012, he only received 16 per cent of the votes, compared to today’s 23 per cent.
In Croydon South, the Conservatives retained their seat: after winning the last five general elections, Sir Richard Ottaway retired this year. In his place will be Chris Philp, who won with 54 per cent of the vote. Philp called for educational reforms in his acceptance speech. He also said that he plans to introduce new policies regarding welfare and would aim to add additional layers of protection for the NHS.
Philp also thanked his opponents: “We may disagree, in some cases quite violently, but I have every respect for their views and will certainly listen to those views in the future.”
Labour candidate Emily Benn, granddaughter of the late left wing Labour MP Tony Benn, improved on her 2010 result with an increase of 5 per cent to 14,308 votes. The Lib Dems lost almost 10,000 of the votes they received in 2010. Benn said that she was “incredibly proud” of her party’s campaign.
During her concession speech, UKIP candidate Kathleen Garner was heckled and called a “racist”.
By Lauren Rickard and Oliver Imhof