#ELLGE2019 Led By Donkeys billboard posted to influence Croydon marginal

The Led By Donkeys billboard is clearly visible to drivers traveling down Purely Way from north to south Croydon. Pic: Evie Breese

A billboard accusing the Tories of lying, complete with the image of a reclining Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been erected in Croydon by the Hackney-based campaign group, Led By Donkeys. 

The billboard reads: “THE TORIES ARE LYING. They are a danger to our NHS. England has lost 6,000 mental health nurses in ten years.” It is one of more than 30 billboards erected across the country, addressing Conservative handling of the NHS.

Situated on Purley Way, the billboard is just within Croydon North and close to the borders of the three Croydon constituencies.

Mere yards away is the border for the highly contested Croydon Central, the most marginal constituency in the Eastlondonlines area. In 2015 the Tories won the seat by a margin of just 165 votes; in 2017, Sarah Jones, the current Labour incumbent, claimed the seat by a majority of 5,625. The seat is now a key battleground betweeen Labour and the Tories, with Conservative candidate Mario Creatura challenging Jones for the seat.

In Croydon North, Labour’s Steve Reed is campaigning for his fourth re-election, while the Conservative Chris Philp is campaigning to hold on to his seat in Croydon South, held since 2015.  

Commenting on the billboard via Twitter, Labour candidate for Croydon South Olga FitzRoy said: “I drove past this today… while it’s not quite my campaigning style, I certainly agree that the NHS is in grave danger under the Tories, and that the [Prime Minister] has a problematic relationship with the truth.” 

The Led By Donkeys group, which was founded in 2018 by four friends in a Hackney pub, is a self-described “Brexit accountability project.” Their claim to fame is plastering embarrassing and contradictory statements made by Conservative and pro-Brexit politicians on billboards.

Their first billboard was put up illegally next to the A10 in Stoke Newington. Billboards were also put up across Hackney near Clapton station, Morning Lane, Wick Road, and Tower Hamlets on the Highway and near Canary Wharf; all these have since been plastered over.

Led By Donkeys’ first billboard in Stoke Newington – it has since been plastered over.

Since 2018, the group has gained momentum through crowdfunding  campaigns to legitimately purchase advertising space, including the one in Croydon.  

Speaking to Eastlondonlines, one of group’s founders, Ben Stewart, said that they were trying to spread billboards across the country to spread the message “about the threat the Conservative party poses to the NHS.” 

Describing why the group chose this image of Rees-Mogg to accompany the text, Stewart said: “his comments about Grenfell epitomise what the Conservative party are about in this election.” 

Brexiteer and Conservative parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, Rees-Mogg was widely criticised for saying it would have been “common sense” to flee the Grenfell Tower fire, ignoring fire brigade advice.

“Reactions around the country to our billboards have been very positive,” said Stewart. 

Passing the billboard after doing some shopping in Valley Park, Annaleyse Garner, aged 27, full-time mother, told Eastlondonlines: “I never liked the Conservatives anyway. It’s true, they are always lying.” 

“I worry about the NHS under the Tories. They’re full of promises but are they going to achieve them?…It can’t all be rumours that they’re going to sell it off,” Denise Baird, a 68-year-old retired teacher from Wantley Road, told Eastlondonlines.  

Conservative candidates Chris Philp standing for Croydon South, and Donald Ekekhomen for Croydon North did not respond to requests for comment.  

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