THE Conservatives’ search for a candidate to stand for the Barnet and Camden London Assembly seat next year – no need to go over again what happened to their last one – was whittled down to a final four by a selection committee this evening. The announcement that the Barnet boys Dan Thomas and Dean Cohen were left leading the field, once four of hours of deliberations were complete, led to familiar groans that the Camden side of the constituency has been sidelined again. As Barnet is bigger than Camden, the theory goes that candidates have a greater chance of selection if they come from there.
The shortlist was completed by Westminster’s Antonia Cox and the lone face from the Camden ranks, Tim Barnes (pictured). The surprise, however, was that Tom Smith, who has been worked the territory enthusiastically, and Frognal councillor Siobhan Baillie, one of the party’s rising stars, were overlooked. The decoding from the fans of the defeated goes tonight that both Smith and Baillie (sounds like a good cop show) were decent threats to the Barnet grip on the candidacy, and that supporters of Thomas and Cohen will be glad to see him up against Tim instead. I think that’s the polite way of putting it, anyhow.
Why is this all important? The selection isn’t for a paper candidate. Whoever goes forth and takes on Labour’s Andrew Dismore does so armed with the narrative that the Conservatives held this seat three times at City Hall and only lost it due to a voter rebellion against an individual candidate who had seemed recklessly addicted to controversy. It’s true that there were people to target from Barnet and Camden who voted for a Conservative mayor in Boris Johnson, but not follow it up with Tory support for Brian Coleman at the last election. Local Tories also say the chances of a win here increases with a stronger candidate, but also now in the mix, if Jeremy Corbyn becomes the leader of the Labour Party on a Saturday. Jump a few steps even further into hypotheticals, and Barnet and Camden could suddenly be the first indicator as to whether new Labour MP Tulip Siddiq will find it harder, or easier, to defend her Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency under a Corbyn leadership.
We are getting ahead of ourselves, and it’s time for bed.