IT wasn’t the best of evenings for the Conservatives fighting in Hampstead and Kilburn last night, although they may have always been apprehensive about the whole idea of party co-chairman Grant Shapps returning to the constituency following the Wikipedia editing controversy of last week. Shapps denies any such menacing of the internet, it should be said, but there was no chance for him to elaborate further at the JW3 Centre because almost right before kick off at a well-advertised audience question and answer event he sent apologies. A parents meeting had called him away, the substitute speaker, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling explained. Maybe the last minute call up meant Grayling didn’t get the memo to refer to Hampstead and Kilburn’s squeaky scoreline in 2010 where the Conservatives missed out by only 42 votes; a result, which like the ace in the hole, has been clung to in order to cast the seat as an ultra marginal ever since.
Faced with some frustration from Tory supporters within the audience about why the H&K campaign has lacked a bit of blitz this time, Grayling was asked why billboard advertising had not been used again to spread a positive message about Conservatives in government. His answer was seen by some in the room as the first public admission by a significant Tory that things may not be as close in Hampstead and Kilburn as previously suggested.
“The billboards are in marginal seats,” he said. ” I can tell you about that in our 40-40 campaign, 40 seats we are seeking to gain and 40 seats we are seeking to keep hold of, of which Hendon is one, there has been a huge amount of direct marketing. Round the country, I have seen a lot of this going on. Probably more material is going out through a huge amount of direct marketing, through direct mail, Facebook and direct communications, and we are putting more material through doors than ever before.”
…AN AWKWARD EVENING FOR KEIR STARMER TOO
MEANWHILE, candidates involved in the general election contest in Holborn and St Pancras ticked off their penultimate hustings event at Camden Town Hall at a debate hosted by Camden Unison and Trades Council. I say the candidates, but Keir Starmer was left looking like he had been sent to train with the reserves, as Conservative Will Blair and Lib Dem Jill Fraser sent substitute speakers, and Green Party leader and candidate Natalie Bennett called in sick and did the same. Ukip, we were told, did not respond to the invitation, but the Socialist Equality Party, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol and the Animal Welfare Party did. This meant we had some rather odd moments where single issue candidates found themselves busking on free school structures and high speed rail. The audience was almost wholly left wing in its politics, and the Tory and Lib Dem stand-ins were interrupted regularly mid-sentence by hecklers. Ben Seifert, for the Conservatives, was sworn at early in the piece, and by the end of the evening was shaking his head at the fact nobody wanted to give him a fair hearing.
In the end, it almost became an awkward test for Keir Starmer, to see how left-leaning he is within the Labour Party, with many of the questions directed only at him. He was shouted at for the local Labour council’s cuts budget and drew scowls when he grouped social housing and council housing as one. Once those hedges had been cleared, he ran into hecklers scratching at his time as director of public prosecutions. He hadn’t done enough in Rotherham, he was told, nor the Ian Tomlinson case. Frustrated, maybe exasperated, he stood his ground and answered with criticism of the pathologist in the Tomlinson case for throwing away blood samples. The sound quality is poor but you can hear the exchange which gets more and more testy as it goes on below:
The political parties in Camden came together to ward off Television X from filming in Camden last year. The adult TV channel were touring Britain offering competition winners the chance to have sex with performer Rebecca More. The channel obviously hasn’t forgotten the episode, tweet-trolling Camden leader Sarah Hayward.
Labour councillor Maeve McCormack claims the Conservatives fled in Gospel Oak
Where is this Holburn place, Camden Council talks of?