General election 2019: The politically divided borough of Croydon

By Susana Mendonça
BBC Radio London political reporter

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The tram that travels through Croydon transports its passengers through a borough that has been split down the middle politically for years between Labour and the Tories… as well as on Brexit.

If you get on the tram outside the Centrale shopping centre, you are in the south London constituency of Croydon North, a safe Labour seat where the party won 74.2% of the vote in 2017.

A few stops along you can you get off at East Croydon, the urban transport hub of the swing seat of Croydon Central - which is the really interesting one. I'll come to that later.

Get back on the tram towards Coombe Lane and the landscape gets rather rural - you can even see the odd cow roaming outside the window - as you trundle through the constituency of Croydon South.

This is a relatively safe Conservative seat, where the Tories took 54.4% of the vote last time.

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But stay on that tram until the last stop at New Addington and you are back in Croydon's key battleground at this election - the constituency of Croydon Central.

Labour's Sarah Jones is defending the seat she took from the Conservatives in a bruising defeat in 2017. Gavin Barwell - now Lord Barwell - was the housing minister and minister for London at the time but lost the seat to Labour by 5,652 votes.

This time the Conservatives' candidate is Mario Creatura, a local councillor who was a Remainer but is now supporting leaving the EU.

But newcomers to the election race in these parts, the Brexit Party, are standing a candidate, Peter Sonnex, who says the Conservative Party does not own Brexit.

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Brexit is a particularly divisive issue here as just over 50% of people in the Croydon Central area voted to Leave the EU in the 2016 referendum - but in the wider London borough of Croydon as a whole the result was 54.3% in favour of Remain.

The Lib Dem candidate Simon Sprague is hoping to pick off some of those Remainer votes, while the Green candidate Esther Sutton is focusing on climate change. However, neither of those parties managed to take more than 2% of the vote in 2017.

Back at the tram stop I ask local people what matters to them. A tram driver who wanted to stay anonymous tells me it is all about immigration for him; a student nurse named Rosie says she'll be voting on the NHS; a young man called Edward tells me he doesn't want Brexit to happen; while another, Filipe, says he wants Brexit over and done with and that will determine how he votes.

You can see the lists of candidates standing in Croydon's three seats here: Croydon Central; Croydon North; Croydon South.

  • The BBC will be in Croydon on Thursday to examine the issues affecting the south London borough. Watch the coverage on BBC News or watch BBC London News on BBC One at 18:30 GMT.

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