Morning update 16.04.15: Sacko fever?


EXACTLY a month ago, Conservative Mike Freer was listed with the bookmakers as a 1/4 favourite to hold the Golders Green and Finchley. But is it squeaky bum time all of a sudden? His odds have drifted after the latest Lord Ashcroft poll this week suddenly put Labour’s Sarah Sackman, the lawyer from Kentish Town, ahead by two points in the constituency, symbolic for being Margaret Thatcher’s old yard. Even if two points fall into Lord A’s accepted margin for error, and the pollster always insists his research provides a snapshot rather than a prediction, it is still a major advance for the Sacko campaign to have moved so close. If they were two points behind at this stage, it would be pretty good. Labour members have hardly been able to hide their ecstasy to actually be ahead. Among those will be activists from Sir Keir Starmer’s ranks in Holborn and St Pancras who have been re-directed to Barnet each weekend, with the party twinning teams in safe constituencies with those in target areas.

Of course, when the polls are negative, politicians remind us that the only score that counts is the one taken on May 7. When they are positive, we are told that nothing must be taken for granted but it is good to see the message on the doorstep resonating with voters. We have to take it all with salt seasoning. There may even be the consequence that the bar chart goads the Conservatives into greater efforts, shaking out any lethargy at just the right time for the Tory defence. Freer, now drifting to 8/13 with the number-makers, was certainly styling it out this week. Flawed, he said of Lord Ashcroft’s polling, because “many people will have gone away for Passover or will be observing Passover so that’s a factor that needs to be borne in mind”. For all the talk of the knife-edge nature of Hampstead and Kilburn contest, however, the Freer-Sackman head-to-head suddenly looks to have an intrigue of its own.


THERE has been some gentling teasing of ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ Tulip Siddiq about the number of times her grinning face has popped out of the Evening Standard in recent weeks. She jerks an ‘aw no, it’s so embarrassing’ line if you ask her about the growing mountain of paper coverage, but she’s hardly going to say no to THREE double-page spreads in the London-wide paper being held up by her image. Last night, it was another two page, ‘Tulip Fever’, the same headline as used in a three-page profile in the Independent two weeks ago. Glowing in many parts, some rivals grumbled that it read like she had written the piece herself, starting with the controversy over the Putin picture now being explained away as the heroic moment Tulip actually challenged him on Russia’s record of gay rights. The interviewer Rosamund Urwin, well-respected, a writer whose pieces are known to be fuelled by the right levels of scepticism and suspicion, was later challenged on Twitter with the claim she had written an ad for the Labour candidate.

Rosamund felt compelled to answer, more or les explaining that she can profile who she wants. She’s right, in that it is natural for journalists to want to interview candidates with colourful life stories in tight constituencies, and  Tulip more than fits that bill. Away from the Twitter to and fro, however, Labour’s political opponents locally suggest in their mutterings that they are less irritated by the content of the latest piece, and more frustrated by the regularity with which Tulip has been given what they see as a big platform in the Standard, with the three big pictures over double pagers. “It wasn’t really different from what people will have read before, so we were wondering why they were doing it again and how many more times they are going to do it,” one Hampstead Conservative grumbled at last night’s hustings in West Hampstead.  The last time anyone can remember Conservative candidate Simon Marcus being mentioned in the paper was the tag of looking ‘visibly tired’.


THERE was no morning update yesterday,  I was playing catch-up after spending Tuesday afternoon warbling away and making odd hand gestures on the BBC news. After this babble, during which I gained new admiration for politicians who get questions fired at them on live TV with a camera up their nose, I returned to the office and deleted all the old lecturing blog posts n here about how there were too many journalists interviewing journalists in the world. 


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