By-Election Special: Croydon North

by Jackie_South on October 4, 2012

The sad death of Malcolm Wicks at the weekend means that there are currently five parliamentary by-elections pending (see our previous posts on Corby, Cardiff South and Manchester Central). Of the twelve by-elections (including those pending five) needed since May 2010, nine have been in Labour seats, only one in a Conservative seat (the pending Corby election) and two in seats held by Sinn Fein. The Croydon North result from 2010 is shown below.

As those results show, nowadays Croydon North is even safer for Labour than Manchester Central or Cardiff South and Penarth. In 2010, his majority was 31.9% and he even managed to obtain a slight swing towards Labour.

That swing is due in part to the demographic changes in the constituency, which is now around 50% non-white. This has not always been the case: in fact Wicks is the only Labour MP the constituency (and its predecessors) have ever had.

The chart below shows the results in Croydon North since its creation in 1997, and it shows a remarkable consistency in that time. As Labour’s national support declined over that period, here it was offset by the impact of demographic changes.

Looking further back to include the results for the seat’s main predecessor, Croydon North West, we see a far less consistent picture. That seat had been Conservative held since its creation in 1955 up to the 1979 general election, albeit by some small margins at times. Its predecessor, also titled Croydon North, was similarly Tory.

Then its MP Robert Taylor died in 1981, triggering a by-election. That October, the new Liberal-SDP Alliance won its first seat here, with Liberal Bill Pitt taking it on a 24% swing. An interesting footnote is that this election was that the National Front candidate was Nick Griffin in his first election (he stood there again in 1983).

Pitt lost it in the next general election to Conservative Humfrey Malins, who held it until Wicks won in 1992. The boundary changes in 1997 notionally returned the seat to the Conservatives (with a slender 250 notional majority) but the Labour landslide meant the impact of those boundary changes were swamped out by the swing. Wicks’ 1,527 majority in 1992 transformed into one of over 18,000 in 1997.

Croydon N-NW timelineThe constituency covers a heavily urbanised and largely residential part of south London, covering the area between Crystal Palace park and the northern edge of Croydon’s town centre.

Crystal Palace FC’s Selhurst Park ground, the South London IKEA store and the Croydon transmitter at Beulah Hill all lie within the constituency. So does the Brit School for performing arts, which has given the world Amy Winehouse, Adele, Katy B, Jessie J, Leona Lewis, Katie Melua, The Kooks, Kate Nash and Rizzle Kicks.

Croydon North map

Croydon is a Conservative-run borough, but all eight of the wards in Croydon North are Labour held on the council. Of Labour’s 33 councillors in the borough, 24 represent wards in this constituency.

Croydon North councillors

It is too soon to know who will be selected as candidates by the party. However, I understand that the speculation at the Labour Party’s conference in Manchester most frequently centred on Val Shawcross, the GLA assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, and Ken Livingstone’s deputy mayor running-mate earlier this year. Shawcross lives in the constituency, was a former leader of Croydon council and was a friend of Malcolm Wicks.

We understand that the only hurdle to Shawcross (other than the selection process) would be the requirement to get permission from the Labour Party NEC to go forward, as the party has tightened its rules on current postholders running for other posts to stop MPs creating unnecessary by-elections. Shawcross has good friends on the NEC across the spectrum and so this may not be too much of an impediment.

Clearly, part of the Labour majority here was as a result of Wicks’ strong local reputation. But it is hard to see Labour realistically losing here, whoever is selected, not least because their history of strong wins is still recent and the local party is one with a good campaigning reputation.

The map below shows our estimate of the lead Labour held in each ward at the general election, based on the local election results from the same day. The Conservatives are second in most wards, although the Liberal Democrats were the runners up in Bensham Manor and Thornton Heath wards.

Croydon North margins

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kaj October 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Louisa Woodley would also be very much in the reckoning, especially in a seat with a very high BME ,in particular a significant Afro-Carribean community and with the dearth of Afro Carribean MPs

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