Leadership pitch: Rishi Sunak addressing Croydon Tories. It’s unclear whether bouncers Perry and Creatura were on the door to stop people getting in, or to prevent people getting out

Our mole in the Croydon Conservatives was quite impressed by the flying visit of the former Chancellor. And with his shoes

Liz is down in Surrey but we’re told she’ll come to visit us, too.

But with a good two days’ notice, on Friday we had Rish! down here at a church hall in Purley, talking to and, better, meeting and chatting with party members.

Some Conservative politicians looking for party members’ votes usually just give a quick speech, take a couple of questions and are then out the door before anyone’s had a chance to catch their breath, off to court the next set of voters.

David Cameron came to Croydon for 15 minutes at the beginning of an Association dinner during his leadership campaign, made a condescending joke about “Croydon facelifts” that no one laughed at, and then set off for Sutton. Richard Ottaway, the then Croydon South MP, was Dave’s driver from Westminster and on to Sutton, so at least he bagged some quality time with the soon-to-be Tory Leader.

Party unity: Rishi Sunak and some Croydon Tories. But who was not there?

Our current Croydon South MP, Chris Philp, who supports Liz, was not there. I don’t know why.

On his arrival, Rish! gleefully embraced Deputy Mayor Hale and later took a picture with our Mayor Perry and the rest of us.

The key difference with that Cameron visit 17 years ago was that Rish! seemed genuinely to want to get to know everyone there. He made a real effort to try to speak with us all.

When speaking and answering questions, Rish! said he wanted to back small businesses, which will have gone down well with our local businessman and part-time Mayor Perry.

Rish! seemed keen to put money the way of the NHS and happy to fill gaps in NHS staffing with recruits from overseas.

He would not be drawn into condemning the European Court of Human Rights, after a question from our Loony fringe, John Cartwright. Rish! did underline that we had gained our independence from Europe.

We were now going to have our own Bill of Rights, Rish! stressed, and we needed to be aware of asylum being taken advantage of.

Rish! spoke of Brexit benefits, although he did not get around to specifying them. As PM, he said, he’d be keen to exploit those unspecified benefits.

There are still Barwell people in our councillor team, I feel, but the comment from the former MP on Brexit would not have found any open support in today’s meeting.

“This leadership election is taking place in an imaginary world where Brexit hasn’t made us poorer, we’re not facing a climate emergency and tax cuts don’t need to be paid for,” his Lordship tweeted.

Time has moved on in the Tory party and many members see Barwell as being out of order and just bitter about the mess he made of Brexit and losing Croydon Central.

Anyway, Rish! was mobbed after speaking but he took the time to talk to the more bashful of us, too.

Grumbling in the background: ‘Lord’ Barwell’s latest critique of his party’s leadership

On education, when he spoke with individual members, Rish! (Winchester and Oxford) said, “Well, look, I believe in education excellence. So we need to look at everything, right? Whatever is going to work and make the difference, we should be prepared to do.”

This was a support for grammar schools, a policy that goes down especially well with South Asian heritage voters in Croydon, but has never been tried by Croydon Tories after Margaret Thatcher abolished grammar schools.

I was impressed with Rish!

Honest and genuinely likeable, I thought. And nice shoes, too.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London.
Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com