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The London Borough of Croydon
is seen as one of the Conservatives key targets for these Local Elections,
and I am honoured to have been selected to contest Norbury ward. In
theory it is Labour’s second most vulnerable ward, although the scale
of demographic changes make comparisons with 2002 a risky business.

Labour have been in control
of the Council for 12 years, and whilst most Norbury residents that
have been there that long say it has gone downhill, many are new to
the area and don’t know what it was once like. The general population
drift is Southwards, with the result that the leafy wards of Croydon
South are becoming more Conservative, whilst the wards of Croydon North
and Central are receiving new residents from inner London Boroughs such
as Lambeth and Southwark.

Norbury is an interesting case
in that it is the most Northerly ward, but much of it could be described
as leafy, and some areas are positively affluent. Sadly it has more
than its fair share of “Champagne Socialists”. The good news from
the doorsteps is that the Labour vote appears soft, with many “T’s”
going down on the canvass sheets, whilst the “C’s” appear determined
to turn out for us.

Labour are certainly worried
about Norbury and put out several leaflets just before the election
expense limits started. They also distributed a corny DVD that has been
described as the worst home movie ever made. Cherie Blair and Ken Livingstone
have also visited which is great news for us. No one seems to like her,
and he has forced through a bus lane on the A23 that few wanted after
one of his meaningless consultations.

One of the most interesting
features of the campaign so far has been the doorstep response. The
vast majority of Labour supporters that we meet are polite to us whether
they are wavering or not. There is however a minority who cant slam
the door quick enough when you say “Conservative”. I like to think
that these are the people who have done very nicely out of New Labour
for the last few years such as consultants and NHS managers. Perhaps
they realise that Blair’s plans for a one-party State in all but name
may not succeed after all.

So will we win in Norbury?
The honest answer is we will not know until we see the votes stacked
up, and perhaps not for a few hours later. There is usually one ward
that needs a recount or two and I suspect it will be ours. We can take
control of the Council without Norbury, but I have no particular desire
to be a bridesmaid.

And finally, the best anecdotal
evidence of Labour under pressure in Norbury so far, as told to me by
a previously solid Labour voter. He suggested to a canvassing Labour
Councillor that Britain should follow the Australian example whereby
all potential migrants had to show that they had a reasonable amount
in their bank accounts. The Councillor’s response to this life long
Labour supporter was apparently that if he thought that system was so
great, then he should emigrate himself!

Wish me luck!