Labour Show Signs of Nerves Over 'Safe' Seat of Croydon North as By-election Draws Nearer

It is hard to imagine people turning out to vote for Labour at the by-election, the way they once did to support Malcolm Wicks - not with the legacy of New Labour fresh in people's minds.

The by-election for Croydon North is beginning to heat up as the big day approaches.

In a significant and predictable move, this week the Labour party will send some key MPs to campaign for their candidate Steve Reed - and it isn't because Labour are worried about the Conservative party.

In what is increasingly being viewed as a choice between New Labour and Respect candidate Lee Jasper, many people sense that the tide may be beginning to turn.

David Lammy, Chuka Umunna, Diane Abbott, and Sadiq Khan hitting the streets to campaign for Croydon North, which was said to be in the bag for Labour, is an indication that Labour know they're on the run in what they thought would be a walk in the park.

Its also a sure sign that Lee Jasper's message is starting to resonate with people, and that Labour are worried. They probably should be. That's what many people are starting to say, and that's indeed how it looks.

That's not to say that making an impact in this election will be an easy task for the Respect Party - but its possible - and with each day looks more and more likely.

While the myth of Labour's 'core support' still persists, the shift on the ground and the political climate elsewhere says otherwise.

There are many factors that could shape the outcome of this election, but it is hard to imagine that Labour will be able to convince people that Steve Reed is the right choice for Croydon North, in the way they were able to with Malcolm Wicks.

The argument certainly doesn't look very convincing on paper.

Labour sending down some of their more recognisable MP's in an attempt to boost their image reflects this.

Should Jasper and Respect do well, there would be everything to play for in the general election.

During the interim, while austerity measures - which all of the mainstream parties support -continue to be implemented, and while the cuts continue to bite, anger and resentment towards the mainstream politics will only increase.

The run up to the election looks to be an interesting finale. Lee Jasper has a steller record on campaigning around issues of equality, has been doing so for many years, in addition to having worked in one of the highest political offices in London.

He has also remained vocal and visible on crucial issues that matter to the people of Croydon North, and the wider community, particularly in the wake of the riots, compared with many of the bright young things in Westminster who have been next to silent. He also spoke up for the Duggan family, in the wake of Mark Duggan's death, when everyone else in the media seemed hell bent on painting a picture that would condemn Duggan, and exonerate the police. Croydon certainly needs a candidate who understands the fragility of the relationship between marginalised communities and the police. This area of concern is often sidelined and overlooked in politics, but was one of the sparks that led to the rioting last year.

How young people feel about such issues, in particular the axing of EMA, and the hike in university tuition fees could prove decisive too. Croydon North is a constituency in London with a greater number of young people in it than others. That's a wide demographic, but perhaps it is worth taking note that various artists and individuals have come out in support of Lee Jasper including the rapper English Frank. Maybe that says something about who many young people will identify with and why. It isn't with politicians. With high youth unemployment local young people desperately need a voice that will reject the policies that are resigning them to the scrap heap.

All of these factors could prove vital at the ballot box.

Ultimately there are many things that could end up shaping the outcome of this by-election which takes place on 29 November.

But at present, the notion that Labour has constituents that it may take for granted looks wobbly. Nobody is saying much about the Lib Dems in this race - it wouldn't be a surprise if they lost their deposit on this one.

Many, including from within the Labour Party, feel Reed was never a safe bet for the Labour, and are concerned that criticisms of him as head of Lambeth council, will follow him to Croydon North - and ultimately prove damaging.

One example of the kind of criticism which won't go down well in Croydon, was highlighted by the Voice newspaper this week. According to Unison, structural changes set to go ahead within the council will result in three quarters of black staff in the council's housing department losing their jobs.

These proposals and Unison's criticisms, last week led to organised protests taking place by council workers, with more set to take place. This will surely be taken into consideration by voters in Croydon North at the ballot box.

It is hard to imagine people turning out to vote for Labour at the by-election, the way they once did to support Malcolm Wicks - not with the legacy of New Labour fresh in people's minds.

But who knows. Ultimately, it surely has to be a good thing that politicians have to work harder, and it has to be healthier for the democratic system.


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