Steve Reed

SPAC Nation scandal plagues Labour’s Croydon North safe seat

By Jack Francklin
December 10 2019, 14.40

If Kensington is south west London’s most marginal constituency, decided by just 20 votes in 2017, then Croydon North is the safest seat.

Indeed, in the seven elections since the seat was created in 1997, Labour has never failed to achieve less than 53% and Steve Reed banked 74.2% of votes cast two years ago for a whopping 32,365 majority.

Polling experts claim Mr Reed has a 95% chance of retaining his seat in the forthcoming General Election – and even that appears a little on the stingy side when you take a stroll around an area with the highest number of under-18s in the capital.

And when the bookmakers can’t even be bothered to offer a price on you losing, you know you are on to a sure thing.

It’s little surprise that while neighbouring Croydon Central has been a much-discussed bellwether seat, the winner often coming from the party that forms the government, Croydon North sails under the radar.

“They don’t count the vote in Croydon North, they just weigh it,” said Rosie Fowler, 67, as she waited in the rain for her train at Norbury.

“It’s Labour or nothing round here,” added her friend, Pamela Garner, 66.

Dr Claire Bonham, the Liberal Democrat candidate, accused Mr Reed of taking Rosie, Pam and other voters like them for granted.

‘Getting Brexit done’ isn’t likely to play well for Conservative candidate Donald Ekekhomen, a late entry into the race, in a constituency where 58% wanted to stay in the European Union.

Mr Reed, a shadow minister for children and families, claims to have dealt with more than 50,000 issues for residents, one of the highest rates for any MP.

And he has put securing more funds for mental health at the heart of his campaign.

He championed a new law to improve oversight of the use of force against patients in mental health units.

This was in tribute to resident Olaseni Lewis, who died in 2010 soon after being restrained by 11 police officers.

Under legislation, hospitals are now required to publish data on how and when physical force is used.

Politics and religion may be uneasy bedfellows but the furore around a controversial evangelical church operating in south London could yet have an impact.

Spac Nation — based in the constituency — is headed by pastor Tobi Adegboyega and has been accused of operating like a cult and encouraging its congregation to take out loans to fund the church.

Mr Adegboyega has denied there is a police investigation, calling reports fake news in a social media post liked by Mr Ekekhomen.

But Mr Reed met with police to discuss his concerns last month after a series of issues were raised by local constituents.

“I raised my concerns and I was inundated with phone calls from people, people telling me they have been criminally exploited,” he said.

“I took the allegations to the police, it is immoral to say the least.

“Politicians of all parties have been hoodwinked into going to church services, believing it was a church.

“I don’t criticise the people who were hoodwinked in this way.

“However, Croydon Conservatives went one step further to outsource a campaign to the church.

“When the allegations came they did not disown their candidate.”

However, rather than campaign on the issue locally, Mr Reed is preferring to come to the support of Labour colleague Sarah Jones in neighbouring Croydon Central.

She is running a tight campaign against Conservative candidate Mario Creatura, who has close ties to the church.

On Mr Reed’s social media account he spends more time pushing his Labour Party colleague’s Croydon Central campaign than his own — such is the security of his majority in the Croydon North constituency.

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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