ON COURSE: Lee Jasper
LEE JASPER’S bid to become a south London MP moved up a notch yesterday (Nov 21) after bookies moved the Respect party candidate to second favourite behind Labour.
Initially Labour candidate Steve Reed had said it would be a "two-horse race" between him and Conservative candidate Andrew Stranack.
But now Ladbrokes and William Hill have slashed Jasper's odds from 25/1 to 14/1 on taking the “safe” Labour seat at Croydon North by-election.
The by-election was called following the death of death of MP Malcolm Wicks earlier this year.
Reed and Jasper clashed during Tuesday night’s (Nov 20) hustings in Thornton Heath, south London.
The pair were embroiled in heated exchanges over Reed's record as Lambeth council leader.
Jasper used a report in The Voice, which voiced fears that job cuts in Lambeth “will hit black workers hardest of all,” to strengthen his argument.
Reed accused Jasper, a former race advisor to ousted Mayor Ken Livingstone, of seeking to divide the community along racial lines.
The candidate said: "Malcolm [Wicks] really valued the diversity of our community, as I do. Unlike some parties, who want to divide us on race grounds, I understand that we are strongest all together.”
Earlier this week London Mayor Boris Johnson spent time meeting shopkeepers on south London's the London Road with Conservative candidate and youth worker Andy Stranack.
Jasper told the hustings, held at the Gonville Academy, that he was standing on a platform of “anti-war, anti-cuts and pro-justice” and attacked the closure of a local police station.
He said: “This closure of police stations is a calculated abandonment of some of the poorest areas of London. Lambeth was the gang-crime capital for many years, and it was not dealt with and it spread throughout South London.”
Former boxer Winston McKenzie from the UK Independence Party angered some of the audience when he claimed the shortage of school places was down to immigration.
He said: “You know what this is about? Our borders. Where do all these people come from, why is Croydon and London so full? Let's look at the real facts. Everyone is frightened to talk about the real issues, I will talk about them.”
Other candidates standing include Shasha Khan, nicknamed Croydon's 'Green Knight' for his community work and former Islington councillor Marisha Ray, standing for the Liberal Democrats.