HAPPY New Year. What’s been happening since the mince pies and mistletoe? A little catch-up is due:
* WHAT does it mean when a politician says they are standing for election in the place they call ‘home’? That they live on the patch? Not for Sarah Sackman, Labour’s candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, where there is a hope that the sitting Conservative MP Mike Freer, and his election battle caravan, could face a bit more of an anxious time than his aides expect. Sarah lives in Kentish Town and went to school in South Hampstead, but insists on her latest leaflet that its Finchley and Golders Green that ‘means home’.
— Sarah Sackman (@sarahsackman) January 6, 2015
* AS the row over the future of the NHS rumbles on, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was apparently due for a visit at the Whittington Hospital (pssst… remember it’s the Royal Free that have set out their stall on limiting politician photo shoots in its wards) yesterday. Word got out of Hunt’s imminent arrival, NHS campaigners resolved to meet him at the gate, and all of a sudden the visit one off.
* UKIP is backing former lollipop man Jon Seymour who was fired by Camden Council for calling a colleague ‘King Kong’. He argued that it could not have been racist because both people involved were black. As an employment tribunal case was thrown out this week, UKIP posted on its local Facebook pages: “Jon Seymour is one of ours. Please support him.” Assessing the next steps, Mr Seymour – his sister Maxine stood for the party at last year’s council elections – told the Ham and High after the hearing: “Maybe I’ll emigrate to another country.”
* ON the subject of UKIP, the latest polls released by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft may not have offered any new gear for the Hampstead and Kilburn battleground, but they have sketched out trends further afield in Harrow East. The Tory lead is shrinking there, according to Lord A’s poll, but due to the growth of UKIP support rather than a Labour threat. It could all be quite a squeeze for Bob Blackman. Leading by three percent in this latest polling, he’s up against former Islington Labour policy officer Uma Kumaran there.
* IT will be interesting to see how new Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary candidate Sir Keir Starmer deals with the most combative corners of the press. As the New Year fireworks blasted, Guido Fawkes declared Sir Keir’s selection win in the constituency as the ‘stitch up of the year’, part of his regular column for the Sun. “Britain’s former top prosecutor oversaw the bungled trial of a top Tory MP for rape, before rules were bent to allow him to become the candidate for Holborn in Central London,” the spiky text read. “If Labour win in May, he is a shoo-in for a top legal cabinet role, though as Guido recently revealed, others in the party have bigger plans for him. Blairites such as Alastair Campbell see him as a future party leader – their knight of the right.” Sir Keir did not respond to right wing press articles which claimed the selection contest to find Frank Dobson’s successor had been delayed just so that he could stand. Supporters claim he is keen not to get involved in a game of weekly fire-fighting if he becomes a target for Conservative-supporting newspapers. Such a strategy will require rhino-hide skin.
* IN the aftermath of that Labour selection contest in Holborn and St Pancras selection contest, there was familiar gossip that council leader Sarah Hayward’s third place finish would encourage a local leadership contest at the annual general meeting in May. With those Labour members briefing about the possibility of a fresh revolution still hidden in the shadows, Sarah has openly called them “cowards” for insisting on anonymity. It’s the same stance she took when anonymous Labour figures attacked the leadership of Ed Miliband at the end of last year. A couple of people have asked why there haven’t been a few more blog posts on this subject, post Holborn and St Pancras. One of the key problems for anybody who thinks it’s time for another change at the top is that they are struggling to name a likely contender to challenge Sarah, somebody who will come out into the open and put their name forward. There is a big reputational risk for anybody who might be contemplating taking the plunge: the AGM will come, after all, in the middle of the general election campaign where public unity against the Tories, Lib Dems and others will be demanded. Splitting open Camden’s Labour Party once again at that very moment may not seem such a good idea as it did to the whisperers back on the evening of December 13. And, despite coming third across the membership, the figures suggest those who backed Sarah for selection within the council group still outnumber those who didn’t – and those who did are more than a little perplexed as to why anybody thinks the result changes anything. They still insist that Sarah would have triumphed if a candidate with such a national profile as Sir Keir had not emerged.
* ALSO following on from the H & St P rumble, was that briefing from admirers of Raj Chada that the former council leader felt re-energised by finishing second. The line, you may have read it in the CNJ, was put out that he was ready to return to the Town Hall stage by standing for the council again. It’s a scare story, I guess, for people on the opposing side of the party, a shout for a strong lefty ready to stand up for the old Tulipista voters within the group. But, again, there is a certain money where your mouth is element to all of this. It was easy to say that Raj was keen to get back into the game after an emotional selection contest, some passionate speeches and, most crucially, with the next set of local elections three and a half years away. But now, through tragic circumstances, the death of Peter Brayshaw in the safe Labour ward of St Pancras and Somers Town and the by-election that will have to follow, people may well ask: Well, Raj, are you really ready for a return?