SO, Will Blair will be the first Conservative to stand in a post-Dobson Holborn and St Pancras after winning the local constituency selection on Thursday night. Pint glasses were raised to him at the Pineapple pub in Kentish Town. It seems like a sensible choice for the party locally. For Blair has shown enthusiasm chasing lost causes in Camden before, and if that sounds like some sort of backhanded compliment, it isn’t meant as one.
He has the energy the party needs to pep things up after a disappointing performance by the last Tory candidate in these parts, third-placer George Lee. Certainly, after that 2010 election, the Conservatives could not even say they had enjoyed the rush of competition in Holborn and St Pancras too much. It would only be stirring to ask whether the local branch still exchanges holiday postcards and Christmas cards with Mr Lee.
In Blair, they have a guy who has settled in Kentish Town – you may have seen him in the Pineapple, the Tavern In The Town, he’s an expert in ale and pub quizzes by all accounts – who they can swing behind because, if nothing else, he is likeable. Every time I have spoken to him in the past, he has shown a rare honesty about mistakes or challenges the Conservatives face, while never appearing downtrodden and explaining how things could soon be better. Maybe we will see more tribalism from him now he is a PPC, but that form of wasteful aggression is not something that has been part of his game in Camden so far. His tough guy expression in his tweeted picture above s a bit of am-dram.
For those yet to meet him, his tones aren’t estuary, and there will be addresses he knocks on over the next nine months where the door will slam on the presumption that he’s simply a posh Tory. But on those doorsteps where he can buy a few seconds to talk, there is a sense he can come across well.
It won’t be enough to win, we’ve all been around long enough to know nobody but Labour will win here next year – the writer AN Wilson famously said a pig with a red rosette could hold Holborn and St Pancras. But winning back second place from the Lib Dems and resisting the rise of the Greens with a good tally would be a smart building block for Blair’s political CV. We’ve said many times how many successful Conservative parliamentarians have used Holborn and St Pancras as a neat training ground in the past.