The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Richard Sudan Headshot

Accusations of Foul Play in Battle for Croydon North as By-election Day Looms

Posted: Updated:

Just two weeks ago, the Croydon North by election was described by the Labour party as a "two horse race" supposedly between themselves and the Conservative party.

Maybe that's how things will turn out, but the last few days saw betting suspended for Lee Jasper, the Respect Party candidate who is now tipped to finish second after Labour's Steve Reed.

Of course, this news should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. What it does reflect though, is a very interesting election campaign, encompassing a multitude of factors that could come into play at the ballot.

We have seen the cavalry sent down from the Labour party to reinforce what many view as a risky candidate in Steve Reed.

Chuka Umunna, David Lammy, Sadiq Khan, Diane Abbott, and Ed Miliband, have all campaigned for Reed in an attempt to bolster Reed's image - which has taken a battering in as many days with criticism of Lambeth council remaining a talking point for many.

The reality of this fight, is that if Lee Jasper finishes anywhere from third place upward, Labour will be even more worried than they are now. Some are wondering whether Respect might once again achieve the impossible with Lee Jasper.

Either way, the notion of a 'two horse race' and the seemingly impenetrable monopoly of the of the mainstream political party system would be significantly weakened.

Interestingly, bets have also been suspended in the Rotherham by election, also on 29 November, for Yvonne Ridley, who will be standing for the Respect Party. It seems that both Labour and the bookies think that something seismic is going on, in Croydon and elsewhere.

The results could have the potential to change the political landscape, especially with the general election not so far away.

In addition to the battle of ideas that has been taking place involving the participation of all parliamentary candidates, this weekend saw alternative tactics allegedly being employed by Steve Reed's campaign team.

According to a tweet that has been circulating, an activist for Steve Reed who had been pulling down Respect's campaign posters - in a stroke of genius - decided to tweet about it, adding a picture for good measure.

It's not hard to imagine, that if someone from Lee Jasper's campaign team had done the same thing, it would probably end up featured on a Sky News segment in the same evening, with someone else talking about it on the BBC.

Indeed, such is the double standard, that there's another popular theme being peddled by some on the left, that unfortunately seems to be at play in this election too. No one dares speak it's name but it's the elephant in the room. It needs to be mentioned, particularly with so many right-wingers looking to create animosity.

That is, the scrutiny and focus placed on those canvassing for the so-called 'Muslim vote'. The way in which this fantasy is usually expressed reinforces an assumption. That assumption, is the absurd notion, that wanting British Muslim voters to vote for you is in some way a 'charge' to be 'accused' of. As if asking Muslims to vote for you were an admission of a crime.

Would anyone dare say that a politician was 'targeting' the 'Jewish vote' for example, as if such a one dimensional phenomena existed in the first place? No, they wouldn't, and rightly so.

Part of the reason this country has a political system that doesn't much look like the people it governs, is because for many, the fight to be heard in public and civic life, where decisions are made, is a long and arduous one that is still being fought.

It rolls back progress, when some seek to frame democratic engagement with others, in a negative light. It's divisive, and we wouldn't accept it any where else.

Of course representation will not magically repair our democracy in one swoop. But every vote should also be sought after, and considered as important as the other. Perhaps if all the electorate were appealed to, voter registration would be up and our democracy would be healthier for it. If all British voters were fully represented, perhaps we might see more clearly that the key issues that matter to most people, effect us in the same way - irrespective of background.

Croydon North is a diverse constituency. How the competing campaigns in this by election have been received by the people, will ultimately be revealed in a matter of days.

The Croydon North by-election takes place this Thursday.