Steve Reed and Andy Stranack trade blows ahead of Croydon Advertiser debate
TWO of the main contenders have already started trading blows ahead of the Advertiser's Croydon North by-election debate.
Labour's Steve Reed has written an open letter to Conservative Andy Stranack urging him to "come clean" about five issues "angering" his potential constituents.
But in a PR blunder the letter features a number of factual and grammatical errors.
Reed who, as leader of Lambeth Council, has had to fend off doubts about his local knowledge, asks whether his rival supports plans to build an incinerator in Waddon, when the facility is being built in Beddington Lane on the Croydon/Sutton border.
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He then calls on Stranack to make it clear whether he backs plans to close South Norwood library, when it is the police station which looks set to close.
Aside from the errors, the letter is the latest sign that Labour sees the Conservatives as a threat.
Malcolm Wicks, who died in October, helped build the party a 16,000 majority but it appears Reed's campaign is concerned that his rival's local links and charity work may get traction with voters.
"Dear Andrew, you're a nice guy," the letter begins.
"You care about people and you've done excellent work with local charities.
"But you are the front man for David Cameron and his cronies on Croydon Council."
At the age of five doctors told Stranack he would never be able to walk because of his cerebral palsy. Within two years he had proved them wrong.
Reed's letter adds: "I know life has been a struggle for you at times, just as it has for many people in Croydon North today.
"But you are Cameron's man in this by-election. And people are saying 'We gave Cameron a chance (and) he's blown it'. That will be the message from the ballot box on November 29."
In his response to Reed, seen by the Advertiser, the Conservative candidate rejects being described as the Prime Minister's front man.
"I am absolutely clear that if elected my job will be to stand up for the interests of the people of Croydon North, not just do what my party tells me," he writes.
"The fact that you see yourself as the front man for Ed Miliband and the Labour Group on Croydon Council is further evidence that you're not the right person to take over from Malcolm Wicks. He would never have described himself on those terms."
In answer to the questions, Stranack said it was right to ask Lambeth Council to contribute more to running Upper Norwood Library, that he supported the Government's tax reforms and that youth unemployment, an issue consistently raised by Reed, was also higher than in other constituencies under Labour, just as it is now.
He side-stepped questions about the incinerator and South Norwood police station on the grounds of his opponent's lack of local knowledge.
Reed and Stranack will be joined by Respect's Lee Jasper, Liberal Democrat Marisha Ray, UKIP's Winston McKenzie and Shasha Khan at what promises to be a lively debate tomorrow (Tuesday).
The event is being hosted by Gonville Academy, in Gonville Road, Thornton Heath, with doors opening at 6.45pm. The debate gets under way at 7.15pm.
There are just a handful of tickets left so to book your spot email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, contact details and a question you would like to put to the panel.