This week Resident Association Councillor Graham Williamson writes for the Havering Daily.
Despite the national ‘earthquake’ that has led to a Boris Johnson majority on the back of getting ‘Brexit done’, here in Havering there was no change.
All three present MP’s, two Conservatives and one Labour were re-elected. There was a swing towards Brexit supporting parties but it wasn’t enough to remove the Dagenham & Rainham Labour MP, Jon Cruddas. Similar Labour Leave areas had fallen to the Conservatives but not this one. Why?
Firstly, the MP was one of 19 Labour rebels that had supported the prior Boris Johnson Withdrawal Treaty and opposed any second referendum. Although the national Labour flyers promoted their confusing policy of a second referendum the local candidate’s literature said differently. Clearly a number of Leavers believed that the MP was ‘on their side’ on the issue even if his party wasn’t.
Secondly, the Brexit party candidate (Tom Bewick) had worked hard on the doorstep and attracted some support from more committed Leavers that was less obvious in other similar southern constituencies.
Thirdly, the Conservative candidate was the Havering Council leader (Damian White) who had been promoting himself for some time, in at least, Havering’s section of the constituency. Although he was a ‘heavyweight’ challenger on paper he was carrying quite a bit of baggage.
For example, he was seen as attracting local Councillor defectors for unseemly or unknown reasons, he had led the charge to build on a popular green in South Hornchurch (albeit abandoning plans shortly before his selection), and worst of all had removed free parking in the southern part of the borough. Although hard-working and industrious he was also conspicuous by his absence for interviews and a hustings meeting attended by every other (six) candidate.
The constituency was nevertheless flooded with flyers and targeted letters, primarily from the three front runners. A Conservative victory was predicted in the south, although ironically less so in the north. The result in the end was a close run thing with just 293 votes in it but Jon Cruddas held on. All things being considered, one could say that the local Conservatives snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.