#ELLGE19 Election Preview: Croydon Central – ‘I don’t know who to trust’

Pic: Peter Trimming

Currently held by Labour, Croydon Central is the most marginal constituency in the Eastlondonlines area, and the result may come down to a knife edge.

The incumbent Labour MP, Sarah Jones, has a majority of 5,652, making this seat a key target for the Conservatives in London. But in a seat which narrowly voted Remain by just 54 per cent in 2016, Jones may be under threat from a loss of the anti-Brexit vote to the resurgent Lib-Dems, although they stand little chance of winning. At the same time, Labour’s avowedly left-wing manifesto might not appeal to the swathes of suburban voters in the southern half of the seat.

Voices from the streets

“I don’t know who to trust. Where we’re all heading leaves me worrying. The Westfield Centre, they’ve been building it for four or five years now and nothing has been done. I’m wondering where all the money’s gone. We are not really told what’s happening. They are not really telling us the truth, only what they want to tell us.”

Martina Lee, 39, customer service advisor and student

“I just came here as a new person. I don’t know much about the parties or anything. A lot of people are supporting Boris Johnson, I think he’s good. If Brexit comes it will be more difficult. If people need to go back it won’t be very good.”

David George, 35, stallholder

The seat was held in 2010 and 2015 by Gavin Barwell, author of the book ‘How to Win a Marginal Seat’. Barwell subsequently lost his marginal seat to Sarah Jones in 2017. He later became Chief of Staff to Theresa May and now sits in the House of Lords as Lord Barwell.

Jones was made shadow Housing Minister in 2018. She has previously worked for the housing charity Shelter, and worked on the London Olympics in 2012. She went viral for quoting Stormzy in her maiden speech, telling MPs: “You’re never too big for the boot”.

Born in Croydon, she studied history at Durham University. She has lived in Croydon since, and has campaigned on tram safety and re-zoning Croydon to Zone 4.

Her main challenge comes from Mario Creatura, the Conservative councillor for Coulsdon Town who works for Virgin Money UK. He was previously a special advisor to Theresa May.

Creatura has lived in Croydon his entire life, and was the first member of his family to go to university. His website says: “[Croydon Central] is not just a constituency, it’s his home. He truly believes that it’s only when our community comes together that we can tackle the complex issues facing our town – to create an environment that promotes aspiration and helps our community thrive.”

A resurgence in support for the Liberal Democrats, who more than doubled their vote share in the recent Fairfield by-election, and came second in the EU Elections in Croydon, could cost Jones her seat. 

Their candidate, Simon Sprague, has lived in Croydon since 2014 and works in pharmaceutical manufacturing.  He told Eastlondonlines: “I am fired up and ready to campaign to stop Brexit, fight the climate emergency and properly fund our schools and hospitals.”

Two other candidates complete the list. Esther Sutton, standing for the Greens, is the landlady of the Oval Tavern. She was also a founder member of Croydon Pride.

Peter Sonnex, the Brexit Party candidate, is a bus driver for TfL. He was previously a soldier who served in Iraq, Bosnia and the Falklands before becoming Chief of Staff at the Royal School of Military Engineering. 

He told Eastlondonlines: “I promise to take you for a ride, but I am not going to lead you up the garden path: I am a bus driver, not a politician.”

Croydon Central is socially and ethnically diverse; 40% of the residents are non-white. However, the New Addington estate was also home to a large number of British National Party supporters; in the 2006 elections, they came third in the ward.

The unemployment rate is 50% higher than the national average, and while the crime rate in Croydon as a whole is lower than the London average, the rate in Fairfield ward is almost five times as high. The constituency is split between council estates and suburban semi-detached houses, with a large commuter population.

The constituency has been heavily redeveloped in recent years, although delays to the £1.4 billion Westfield shopping centre remain a controversial issue. Pledges to speed up the development process will feature heavily in party campaigns. 

Croydon Central constituency. Pic: OpenStreetMap

All 2019 Candidates:

  • Sarah Jones (Labour)
  • Mario Creatura (Conservative and Unionist)
  • Simon Sprague (Liberal Democrats)
  • Esther Sutton (Green Party)
  • Peter Sonnex (The Brexit Party)

2017 Results:

Result: Labour GAIN (Majority: 5,652, 9.9%)

Turnout: 57,091 (71.3%)

CandidatePartyVotesPercentage (%)
Sarah JonesLabour29,87352.3
Gavin BarwellConservative24,22142.4
Gill HicksonLiberal Democrats1,0831.9
Peter StavelyUKIP1,0401.8
Tracey HagueGreen6261.1
John BoaduChristian Peoples1770.3
Don LockeIndependent710.1

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