WHEN journalists visit our constituencies just before the election, the local reporters bristle and say oy aye, who’s this then, and find some way to show that these out-of-towners can’t possibly read the lie of the land in a single afternoon. But there’s no real quibble with Rags Martel’s snapshot of the Holborn and St Pancras constituency for ITV London: he captures the issues of a one-sided seat enlivened for spectators by the different characters contesting it.
Green leader Natalie Bennett is seen being heckled in Kentish Town Road to open up the report, although notice here that she is the only one being in interviewed in a very public place, and of course she has an extra layer of fame. We get another shot of Sir Keir Starmer browsing his chambers library’s coalition of red and green law books, and another chance to see Will Blair in a bar – so, as suggested, the report fairly captures a flavour of the constituency.
Eight things we also learned from ITV London’s visit to Holborn and St Pancras
1. SMART CLOTHES GET YOU HECKLED
The heckler who ruins the moment for Natalie Bennett claims they have never seen her here before. She is squatting in a favourite spot for the Labour stall in Kentish Town Road, but it’s a little harsh given she has stood for parliament and the council in Camden before. There have been plenty of election candidates who have breezed in, lost, and quickly breezed out again. But Mr Heckles also starts shouting about her being ‘dressed up in smart clothes’. So there you go, a new recipe for election success is revealed in an instant: Be a bit more shabby to avoid such criticism. Next time we see Sir Keir asking for votes in NW5, I expect him to ditch the smart suit and tie, for ripped up jeans and a bleached hoodie. Go further, candidates, ink some dirt into your face like a Poppins extra and crumple up your hair. It’s a winner, the public have spoken: they do not want smart.
2. NATALIE WILL FOREVER BE REMINDED OF HER LBC MOMENT
She deals with it well – a nervous joke about the housing figures now being engraved on her brain – but that doesn’t stop ITV London playing the tape of Natalie Bennett’s churning, wincing interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC. It’s seems ages ago, but what’s clear is that she is going to be reminded of it again and again. Just think, as party leader, how many interviews that Natalie has done and will do over the course of this general election campaign, and yet the first one anybody talks about is… that one. The only salve I can think of for Natalie on this one, in the constituency and beyond, is a bravura performance at the seven-way televised leader’s debate on April 2. It’s going to be hard to get a word in on a crowded stage, but the opportunity is there.
3. COSTA WON
Back to heckling Harry. See what he is holding? A Costa coffee cup. This has nothing to do with the election in Holborn and St Pancras but the future of Kentish Town Road is a live debate, focused by Friday’s closure of the beautiful Blustons clothes shop. When Costa was about to open, there was familiar fretting about how a chain was moving into our high street and everything would be ruined. The reality is, the place is always packed. Walk past the Kentish Town branch of Costa and, despite the zillion opportunities in the neighbourhood to buy very good coffee, there’s always people queuing for a maroon cup. The place must be making a packet… It makes you think, if people in Kentish Town are worried about, say, a Starbucks moving into Blustons, can they be sure that there isn’t an invisible local population ready to queue up there for another chain-produced latte. Let’s hope not.
4. THE SIR KEIR THING RUMBLES ON
The bit where Sir Keir Starmer says his name is funny. This may have been a bit of a set-up, although don’t sue me if it wasn’t. TV news people often ask their talking heads to say their name to the camera before the questions begin, to check sound and to make sure whoever edits the film later applies the right captions. Here, as soon as Sir Keir has said his name, without his knight’s prefix, Rags jumps in and ask where the missing title is. This one dates back more than a year and when it was suggested in the CNJ that he did not feel comfortable big-standing his honour. Here he tells ITV London that it’s clumsy, and he doesn’t like it. Of course, it’s up to the man himself what he puts on his election leaflets or signs off his letters to the local papers with, but he did take the title, and the correct way to write his name in news stories really should be Sir Keir.
5. TIME AT THE BAR
ITV London assert that Sir Keir is so confident of victory that he is winding down his work. That’s true, even if the candidate would probably rather it was phrased a little differently. He insists nothing is taken for granted, but given Ed Miliband is demanding no second jobs for his MPs, the former DPP has to make sure he ties up all his outstanding legal casework before May 7; just in case, of course… he wins.
6. TIME AT THE BAR II
During his time campaigning for this seat, Conservative Will Blair has had a jolly time being pictured in O’Reilly’s in Kentish Town, and the Golden Lion in Camden Town. He’s been quoted calling for the Admiral Mann to be saved, and last week was pulling pints at an ale festival at the Camden Centre. I’m surprised he did not choose somewhere similarly down-to-earth, ahead of Scarfe’s bar in High Holborn, which looks rather puffin-clubby on the film – even if that’s not exactly what it’s like inside. Either way, it’s another bar.. At this point, it should be said that Will’s sole message at this election is NOT: Do you like beer, because I like beer – hey, we both like beer.
7. DON’T SAY THE ‘L’ WORD
Jill Fraser may not have been to all the hustings but she argues her case to ITV London. When she appeared on a BBC report earlier in the month she used the word ‘local’ so many times that there were naughty comparisons to the catchphrase on the BBC comedy, The League Of Gentlemen. She makes exactly the same point here, without using the ‘L’ word once, namely that Sir Keir Starmer will disappear on a fast-track through the ranks of a Labour government, should one be formed, while Jill will be here being Jill. “I’m not going to off to be the Minister for Justice,” she says confidently.
8. WHO ARE UKIP CANVASSING? AN EARTHQUAKE AWAITS
Will there be a UKIP earthquake in the south of Camden in May? The party’s candidate Maxine Spencer starts off by saying, that after a canvassing session: “I was absolutely amazed by the number of people who said they were voting UKIP.” Whether that is an indication of UKIP’s original expectations for Holborn and St Pancras is unclear, but she was nevertheless absolutely amazed. And maybe everyone else will be amazed too, for she goes on to say she had only found one person who said they were voting Labour while talking to residents. Just one. In a constituency held by Labour for 35 years. What a story in the making.