Always keen to support people in Croydon prepared to support Brexit. The Croydon Constitutionalists spoke to Councillor Mario Creatura, the Conservative Party Candidate for Croydon Central.
Mario will be well known to many of our followers as a local Councillor and campaigner. He worked for Gavin Barwell when he was an MP, global beer company Heineken and in 10 Downing Street running social media for Theresa May. He now works in communications for Virgin Money UK.
Mario thanks for your time.
What don’t we know about you that has led you to be the PPC in Croydon Central?
I’ve lived in Croydon all my life. I was born in Mayday Hospital and went to nursery at Tollgate in Shirley; attended St Thomas Becket Primary in South Norwood; checked my first books out of Ashburton Library and learnt to ride my bike in Bingham Park.
My first job was in the town centre; first flat just off the historic Surrey Street Market and last year, with my wife Amy, we moved into our first home together in Park Hill.
Croydon isn’t just some rung on the political career ladder for me – it’s been my home for over 30 years. I want my community to thrive and that’s not been happening in recent years.
I truly believe that it’s only when our community comes together that we can tackle the complex issues facing our town – to create an environment that promotes aspiration and helps our town thrive. That’s why I’m running to be our next Member of Parliament: to work with everyone to help Croydon be the best it can be.
What first got you involved in politics?
Growing up in Croydon I wasn’t really concerned about politics, and neither were my family. My dad still gets up at 4am to go to work, and when I was a kid mum would work nights in Woolworths in the town centre.
I went to a great state school in South Norwood, worked hard and became the first in my family to make it to university. It wasn’t easy; I didn’t know anyone else that had been. Thankfully with the help of a bursary and an incredibly supportive family I graduated, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it truly transformed my life.
I met people who became lifelong friends. Some of them were interested in politics, and over many a beer it was at university that my interest in politics was kindled.
I graduated in 2009 and came back to Croydon just before the 2010 General Election. While I was away my mum had become a Teaching Assistant at my old school and my dad had started refereeing and coaching the local little league. They had started to get fully involved in the community, rolling their sleeves up and helping out. I saw the difference they made, and how much of an impact they were both making in our local area.
That’s when I started thinking about local politics. I have always thought that if you want to help your community then the best way is by getting involved. It doesn’t matter what it is – but the best way to make a difference is to get stuck in.
That’s also why I started getting involved in the local Conservative party. Politics can be a force for good, a place where people debate ideas and work to make our local area better. I wanted to be a part of that effort, so I took my own advice and got involved!
Any stories from previous campaign trails that have stuck in your memory?
I first ran for election in Selhurst ward. One weekday evening I was out knocking on doors on the Selhurst Road, working to find out about the issues and concerns facing the local residents.
In one of the houses was a lady who was clearly getting ready to go out for the night. She had a towel around her hair and was in a dressing gown – she was clearly in no mood for talking to a councillor candidate. She told me, as anticipated, that she was in the middle of something and had no time to talk – but in any case that there was absolutely no way she was going to vote for a Conservative. She thought that was the end of that, and so I (thinking I had nothing to lose) asked her ‘Why?’
She was taken aback. What did I mean: why? She was very clear wasn’t she?
I was genuinely interested in what she had to say. Why not vote Conservative? Why vote Labour? Why be so unequivocal? I was curious, and she appreciated it.
Despite her supposed rush, we ended up talking for more than 30 minutes. About schools and social mobility. About fly-tipping and potholes. About the health service and police force.
At the end of the conversation she thanked me for my time, and that I listened to her. She told me that she would still be voting Labour but that she appreciated my commitment to our community.
A few weeks later was Election Day. That night I was surprised to receive a message on Facebook. It said:
‘Hi Mario. Not sure if you remember but you canvassed me on Selhurst Road the other day and we had a good conversation about politics. Well just to let you know that I did something that I have never done before in my life and voted for a Tory! Because you are young and passionate and I believe that you will make a difference. So good luck, and if you do get in don’t let me down!’
I sadly did not win that time, but the whole experience taught me a valuable lesson: that if you truly care about your local area, and you listen to the people in the community, then you can make a difference.
You supported Remain in the EU Referendum. What’s made you now support us leaving the EU?
Although I did support Remain, I always recognised that there were merits on both sides of the argument. Since the referendum, my excitement about the possibilities for Britain outside the EU has really grown. In the last year I’ve had the privilege of travelling quite a bit, and there’s a real appetite around the world to re-engage with Britain in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible if we were staying in.
However, above and beyond anything else, I am a champion for Brexit because I’m a democrat. I believe we should leave the EU as soon as possible to fulfill the democratic instruction given to us by the British people. I therefore fully support Prime Minister Johnson’s intention that we leave by October 31st.
In the largest vote ever to take place in British history, the people made a clear decision. I am a democrat, and that decision must be implemented. To do otherwise would shake the very foundations of our democracy.
We were all told that the referendum result would be respected; both Labour and the Conservatives ran on a manifesto commitment to do just that. If we betray that trust, then we jeopardise faith in our entire political establishment – a faith that is already being tested to the limit.
Politicians should not choose which votes they respect and which they do not. We must leave the EU – no ifs, no buts.
What terms would you like to see us leave the EU under?
The ideal terms for Brexit would be to negotiate a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU similar to the arrangement enjoyed by Canada. This kind of deal will allow free trade and relatively little friction on the borders but would not compromise national sovereignty, our ability to set our own laws, control our borders and pursue an ambitious global trade policy.
However, even if we can’t secure a deal like this – which I think we can – we must leave the EU, come what may, on 31st October.
Until recently you were Chief Whip for the Conservatives in the Council. You must have seen a lot of what’s going on. What are your thoughts more broadly on Croydon Politics?
Our local politics is not in a healthy place. The Labour-run Council actively avoids scrutiny – tens of thousands of residents have signed petitions that are ignored by the Council. Even in official consultations, if the response is not in keeping with Labour’s policy objectives then the results are often sidelined. Residents’ Associations are barely engaged with and whenever a reasonable local resident tries to flag issues with an insensitive development, aggressive councillors routinely shut them down.
The public gets a measly 30 minutes to ask questions at each Council meeting, and there are only 7 meetings each year. The Labour Cabinet members don’t hold public meetings and when a member of the public does get to ask a question often the answer is mealy-mouthed and obstructive.
A confident council should welcome scrutiny. The Opposition can help the (currently Labour) Administration to up their game if they are allowed to do their job properly. However, at the moment Labour does everything it can to block any attempt at the main parties working together in Croydon’s interests – and so meetings often spiral out of control into childish bickering that debases our community.
But I’m an optimist. There are so many phenomenal people involved in our local politics – whether they’re in a political party or not, so many residents are committed to making our local communities thrive. We may sometimes disagree on the way to get there, but our ultimate goal is the same.
The only way to help Croydon thrive is to get involved. Join a political party or residents’ group or local charity – whatever suits you, just do it. Truly the only way to improve things, and to oust bad politicians, is to work hard and push for change locally.
This is your first time as a parliamentary candidate, has anything come as a surprise from making that step?
Croydon has got huge potential – the potential to be a dynamic, prosperous town that provides opportunities for everyone. I’ve spent 10 years campaigning in Croydon, and the biggest surprise since becoming the candidate is finding out just how many people locally care passionately about our community and how desperately they want it to get better. There have been heated discussions, and the vast majority have shared a common desire to boost our borough. It’s energising to know there’s that hunger out there, and I want to be instrumental in helping to make it happen for my home town.
If you introduce or repeal 3 laws (other than for Brexit) what would they be?
- Cracking down on crime: A review of sentencing of prolific offenders with a view to creating a clearer expectation of longer and more certain prison sentences for super-prolific offenders. We should continue the Government’s policy of investing in more prison capacity to enable more super-prolific offenders to be jailed and for longer. And we need action to improve and toughen community sentences, suspended sentences and drug rehabilitation programmes – a greater emphasis on rehabilitation is all-important in breaking the cycle that too often drags those leaving the penal system back into a life of crime.
- Tackling poverty: tax cuts for business should be made conditional on increases in wages for staff on the lowest rates of pay, in order to counter in-work poverty. I would offer corporate tax cuts to firms that increase pay for their staff and these tax cuts should also be used to encourage more training for young and low-paid staff, who are most likely to miss out on support to boost their skills. With near full employment already achieved, the Conservatives are already helping millions, but it’s time to address the root causes of in-work poverty – this is just one policy idea to contribute to achieving that goal.
- Social mobility: Given that gaps between the advantaged and less advantaged open up before birth and get wider through a child’s formative years, the role of parents and the early years workforce is highly important. The government’s 30-hour free childcare offer has helped many families afford a vital service – but good quality childcare is still out of reach for many. Significantly reducing the lower income limit of eligibility and working with local authorities to specifically target low-income households will help to boost social mobility. I want every kid in Croydon to get the support and services they need so they can achieve their maximum potential in life.
Any other thoughts you want to leave us with?
We’ve currently got a Labour MP in Croydon Central who has voted to block Brexit more than 10 times. The Lib Dems can’t win in Croydon and neither can the Brexit Party – it’s a straight fight between Labour and the Conservatives. If you truly want to deliver Brexit, then the only way to do that is to vote Conservative in the next election, whenever that comes. A vote for any other party is effectively a vote for Labour to stay in power and for our Brexit-blocking MP to continue in her determined effort to circumvent the will of the people.
Don’t let that happen. Croydon deserves better than that.
Mario thank-you for the interview.