Croydon Councillor Jeet Bains stood in the arguably safe Labour seat of Luton North in the recent General Election. He first became a councillor in 2010 in the then Coulsdon West ward. In 2018 he campaigned in Addiscombe East and split the ward with Labour’s Councillor Maddie Henson winning the other seat, a somewhat surprising result written about in ConservativeHome.
Jeet thank-you for your time..
How did you find it being a Parliamentary rather council candidate, what were the big differences?
It was an honour to be the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Luton North. I absolutely loved it, so much so that I felt this is what I was born to do – not a feeling one often gets. For me, every minute was a joy. Whether it was pounding the streets for hours on end delivering leaflets, talking to people outside shops, being praised, receiving abuse, answering questions on radio stations, debating at hustings, going to different places of worship and community centres – I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made good friends – some stayed by my side day-in and day-out. There were the Sikh businessmen, the Kashmiri radio hosts, the Irish construction guys, the Afro-Caribbean church community…innumerable and wonderful community members. It is an experience like no other. I’ve been thinking about why I liked it so much. My wife says it’s because I like being the centre of attention…
As a council candidate, the issues are obviously very local – streets, planning, bins etc. Many people do, however, vote according to the national picture even in a local council election. In fact we come across many people who aren’t aware that the local council is controlled by Labour – they just assume that, because the Conservatives are in power nationally, that the Conservatives therefore run the council too.
Running for Parliament is different. I found that people are much more engaged and passionate. The issues are also on a wider scale: I received questions about nuclear disarmament, abortion, euthanasia, the environment, and the NHS. I also attended several hustings, community meetings and was interviewed by local and BBC Radio.
In short, running for Parliament is more intense, and I enjoyed this.
What led to you being a candidate in Luton North? What were the big issues in the area?
To stand for Parliament in the Conservative Party, you must be an approved candidate. Being one, I was asked to stand in Luton North.
Luton suffers from higher than average poverty levels, and so for me an emphasis on improving the economy and generating jobs was important. I made the case that getting more companies and government departments/agencies to locate in Luton would create more jobs. This would lead to people having more money in their pockets and feeling better about their lives, and there would be a beneficial effect for the local economy. This was in contrast to my Labour opponent who emphasised public spending and advocated scrapping Universal Credit. Throughout the campaign, I felt that in this election the electorate had a clear choice between a Marxist agenda from Labour and an economy-boosting agenda from the Conservatives. This was quite different to recent elections in which people would complain that there wasn’t much difference between the parties.
Housing was another big issue in Luton, as more people are coming to locate there from other areas. The experience I have of dealing with this issue in Croydon was very useful. People also felt that they were waiting too long for GP appointments, so this was an area on which I was particularly committing to focus.
We’re sure you’re pleased with the overall election result. What do you hope to see the government deliver on?
It was a great night for the Conservatives. The Great British Public utterly rejected Corbyn and his hard Left agenda and, frankly, saved the country. I met people who aren’t usually very interested in politics but, on this occasion, were quite appalled at the prospect of Corbyn in No. 10. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has committed to getting Brexit done, levelling up investment across the nation, and investing much more in health and education. I think this is absolutely right, and I know the government will deliver.
More broadly, the country now has that great benefit of the first-past-the-post system, viz. a clear majority. Gone is the previous deadlock in Parliament, and with it the endless gloom propagated by those that refused to accept the result of the referendum. There is an air of positivity and energy to get things done. I think we will see quite a transformation in the country. In particular, I think there is a permanent shift of political loyalties that has occurred, for example in many northern constituencies. I worry, however, about how it is that some of our younger generation have been convinced that the solutions to their very valid concerns lie in Marxism. I hope the government gives attention to re-making the case for capitalism.
You used to represent Coulsdon West and are now in Addiscombe East. What are the similarities and differences between the two wards?
Coulsdon West was larger, with the usual three councillors representing the ward. Addiscombe East is smaller and thus has two councillors. It’s interesting that in Coulsdon West there was just one Residents’ Association for the whole ward, which is quite normal, whereas in Addiscombe East we are blessed with four!
In Coulsdon West there are family homes in the main, and the issues I dealt with there were chiefly around planning, building control, and traffic and parking in Coulsdon Town. I was also involved in the Cane Hill development – a fine example of Conservatives providing housing of various kinds, in contrast to the Labour council policy of wantonly permitting highly inappropriate developments in existing streets.
Addiscombe East has a greater variety of housing and, I guess with it being a marginal ward and in the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency, the politics is a little more intense. A long running issue, and quite jarring to local residents, has been traffic flows on local streets. An historic decision to make certain roads one way in neighbouring Addiscombe West has resulted in a wholly unequal distribution of traffic on neighbouring roads. In essence, Elgin Road is now flooded with traffic night and day, whereas the residents of Canning Road in Addiscombe West benefit from hearing the birds chirping and their children playing safely in the street. All sensible people agree that this is an anomaly, but the fact that Labour control the Council and all the councillors in Addiscombe West are Labour has nothing at all to do with this sad problem remaining unresolved.
Addiscombe East is the Boroughs only split ward. How do you find representing an area with a Councillor of a different party?
It actually works well. I get on well with Maddie Henson, the Labour councillor here, and we keep things friendly and cordial. I have heard that in the past where there has been a split ward, the councillors from different political parties barely spoke to one another. It’s not like that in Addiscombe East. We focus on helping and making a difference to local residents rather than fighting over our political differences. I think local people quite like this arrangement.
What are your thoughts more generally on Croydon politics?
Croydon is a great town with huge potential. I think Croydon has been let down by the Labour-run council. The town centre has declined, major employers have left, Westfield is nowhere to be seen, and Labour have a quite deliberate policy of allowing highly unsuitable residential developments (mostly small flats) in the middle of streets with family homes. Everyone was hoping for some positive news from the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls, but even that looks to have been botched, and there are complaints arising about where and how the money has been spent.
All of this means that there is a lot for politicians to address. The case needs to be made to local people on which party can best solve these problems. My focus would be on attracting employers to Croydon, providing jobs to people so that they feel responsible and can look after their families. I also want to see a relentless focus on improving the standard of our schools, so that our children have the springboard for getting good jobs.
I think a directly elected mayor could make difference, because the Council is patently failing. Let’s take a tangible example. The government announced a £28.8bn National Roads Fund and an increase to the National Productivity Investment Fund so that it totals £37 billion. I’m not aware that either the Croydon North MP or the Croydon Central MP have made any efforts to have some of these funds come to Croydon. In contrast, Chris Philp, the Croydon South MP, has made herculean efforts in, for instance, getting funding allocated to improve the Brighton-London rail line so that Croydon passengers benefit. This is the kind of thing that a directly elected mayor can really boost.
On Twitter you have expressed some concern with the doom mongering of the environmental lobby. What sensible action do you think we should be taking on the environment?
I think that people don’t respond well to doom mongering, and there is an adverse reaction to endless lectures. At the same time, most people want to do the right thing and be environmentally friendly. If we look at how the world came together to tackle the ozone layer issue, that is an excellent example of how people made conscious buying decisions which stopped the ozone layer being damaged. Similarly, the government’s measures on charging for plastic bags in shops and the ban on the sale of products containing microbeads are measures that make a real difference. The government has also committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That may seem a long way off but it is realistic and achievable. In contrast Labour was talking about reaching net zero by 2030 – something that even the GMB union refused to support.
I think the key is to be realistic and help people to do the right thing – because, most of the time, they want to. I also think we’re not hearing serious dissenting voices, such as Lord Matt Ridley who presents data and questions some of the conclusions that we are asked to accept. We have a great tradition of being free to hear all sides of an argument make their cases robustly, and we shouldn’t lose this. Shouting that the end is nigh is, I suggest, counter-productive. Also, walking along the top of tube trains in Canning Town is probably best avoided.
Any other thoughts you would like to leave us with?
Politics is important and (as apparently Charles de Gaul said) it’s too important to be left to the politicians. I’m encouraged by the increasing engagement in politics by young people. It doesn’t matter which party you join or what your cause is, it’s good to be involved in matters that affect you and your community. I am worried, however, that someone who was utterly unfit to be Prime Minister was one step away from achieving it. It is important that we look at how it is that the hard Left ideology, long ago rejected as damaging to society, has reared its ugly head again.
Finally, a word about social media. Its ability to amplify and to distort is something that we are just beginning to understand. Our greatest minds will need to be brought together to wrestle with this problem. Anonymous accounts, fake news, false utterances with no consequence – freedom and liberty need armour against them.
Jeet can be found on twitter at @Jeet__Bains.