H&StP: The Siege of Bayham Street

FORMER Camden Tory leader Piers Wauchope’s notoriously pulped history of Camden politics – the imaginatively titled: Camden, a political history – grants only one page in 400 to the Labour selection contest from which Frank Dobson emerged successful all those years ago in 1978. “The scramble for selection as the parliamentary candidate was termed by the Journal ‘The Siege of Bayham Street’, the constituency Labour Party’s headquarters. Disgruntled Labour Party members, led by ‘mature student’ Gloria Lazenby and ‘bearded cabbie’ Mick Morrissey, formed a picket line outside the building to urge delegates to stay away. From behind her ‘Democracy – yes, rigging – no’ placard and her Anti-Nazi League sticker, the formidable Mrs Lazenby shouted out her disgust at the executive committee for drawing up a shortlist without the favoured left wing candidate, journalist and Birmingham Six campaigner, Chris Mullin.”

For context, the Journal was the paper that proceeded the New Journal, and Gloria, once the mayor of Camden, maintained a local notoriety for such protests until she eventually stood for the council as an independent. The offices at Bayham Street are now a squat.

But you see, when all is said and done, in years to come nobody, apart from obsessives, will remember the spikes and spears of the 2014 selection campaign in Holborn and St Pancras, or at least the to and fro we will read about in the next couple of months will count for little in the memory if the victor spends the next 20, 30 years on the green benches. Mullin, for his part, went on to be an MP elsewhere, as did another loser in the contest, Patricia Hewitt, the Blairite former Health Secretary no less.

Of one who never made it to the Parliament, Wauchope’s report added: “John Mills, Camden’s deputy leader, represented the pragmatic view of the local party. After being grilled about his defence of rent increases three years before, he managed eight votes. “I sensed defeat,” he said, “the moment I stepped into the room.”



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