The Labour Party held Fairfield Ward in a Croydon Council by-election yesterday, despite a strong showing from the Liberal Democrats.
Labour candidate Caragh Skipper successfully fended off Conservative Jayde Edwards, and Andrew Rendle of the Liberal Democrats.
The vote share of both Labour and the Conservatives declined heavily as the Liberal Democrats doubled their share of the vote.
The by-election had been triggered by the mysterious resignation of Councillor Niroshan Sirisena in September; the only information given by Croydon Labour Party was that it was due to a ‘serious incident’. It has since been confirmed that Sirisena is under police investigation.
Despite this unexpected downward turn, Croydon Labour Party were upbeat about the result, tweeting: “today Fairfield, tomorrow the country.”
Both parties entered the by-election with similar expectations; Labour would win, but their vote share would slip. One Conservative Councillor said it would be “absolutely seismic” if they won.
The result was very much as expected; it would have been a serious upset if Labour had lost this seat. While the Conservatives did not expect to lose votes, there are very few conclusions which can be drawn from the 22% turnout.
However, their low expectations did not prevent the Conservatives from putting up a serious challenge. The campaign was bitterly fought, with several allegations of abuse directed at campaigners. On polling day, at least 80 activists took to the streets to canvass and deliver leaflets.
While the Labour campaign estimated their turnout to be only about 50, they were bolstered by a visit from Dawn Butler, the shadow woman and equalities secretary.
Fairfield Ward was held by the Conservatives until the 2018 local election, when all three seats were lost to Labour, who have since turned the ward into a safe seat.
The contest will be seen as an indicator for the upcoming general election, where Sarah Jones faces a tough fight to keep her Croydon Central seat, which she holds with a majority of 5652.
If the decline in vote share in Fairfield is mirrored across the constituency, Jones could be in serious danger.
The complete result was:
Caragh Skipper (Labour): 849 (40.8%)
Jayde Edwards (Conservatives): 536 (25.7%)
Andrew Rendle (Liberal Democrats): 397 (19.1%)
Esther Sutton (The Green Party): 237 (11.4%)
Heather Twidle (Women’s Equality Party): 40 (1.9%)
Mark Samuel (Independent): 23 (1.1%)