AFTER a two-week, post-conference season break, what’s been happening?
WHAT DIMBLEBY SAYS….
KEIR Starmer became the first MP from Camden in 16 years to appear on Question Time last week. Frank Dobson made his final appearance on the show in 2000 for a mayoral election special. In all, Dobbo made ten appearances. Glenda Jackson did the programme three times. Tulip Siddiq, it’s over to you.
Labour were happy with the way Keir performed in Gloucester on Thursday evening, sounding authoritative and clued up at every turn. He’s not shy to face the cameras. For those predicting that he will one day lead the party, however, there remains a couple of hurdles to cross in the future: one, after Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn’s turns at the top, he would have to weather calls for the party to look beyond north London for its next leader. And two, people say he needs to bring a bit more warmth to his public appearances, to which is meant he needs to sound a little less like a lawyer and show that, at the right time, he can whip out a zinger line every now and then. This can no doubt can be worked on, but David Dimbleby seemed like he knew the drill already when he intervened at one stage with a warning that Keir’s exchanges with Conservative Greg Clark was getting “slightly on the dull side’.
BUYING FOR YOURSELF
A BIZARRE series of events was brought into the public view by a Conservative councillor filing the gift of a dozen cupcakes from a ‘Camden New Journal journalist’ on their hospitality register at the Town Hall this week. What was all this about, you may well wonder. A bribe from the press? No such scandal. You can’t buy secret info with confectionary. Odd as it sounds, the cakes had actually been bought by the Tories themselves and sent to the CNJ by way of a confused apology for passing a photo taken by us for use in a rival newspaper; which needless to say is a breach of trust and generally not the done thing. Unable to be bought off with biscuits and cake, we packaged them up untouched and returned them… where they were registered as a gift from us. Work that one out if you can. The Conservatives had registered their own cakes as gifts. It can’t be much fun doing that at Christmas.
THEO SEEKS PROGRESS
FINANCE chief Theo Blackwell was one of the more outspoken councillors against Jeremy Corbyn during this summer’s leadership contest but he isn’t disappearing into the shadows after the result went against him and other supporters of Owen Smith. No, he’s back – attempting to win election to the strategy board of Progress, the haven for Labour’s ‘progressives’ with a name that appears to bring some Momentum members out in a rash. Theo promises to bring his techy knowledge about the digital revolution to the fore, explaining: “Progress is the leading place for discussions on this agenda in our movement and it would be an honour to serve again to represent progressive councillors and keep the local government voice strong. Other than that I have views on a range of issues, including Seumas Milne, which you can follow @camdentheo”
WILL SEDGWICK JOIN THE NW6 BATTLEFIELD?
THEO may be spared a tetchy re-match with his old rival, the former Conservative councillor Keith Sedgwick, if he runs again in Gospel Oak. In 2010, Blackwell helped win the ward back from a brief Tory rule when he scored 1,965 to Keith’s 1,344. There is talk that Keith, active at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, is ready to run for the Town Hall again at the next borough wide elections. He now calls Fortune Green and West Hampstead home, however, where perhaps more appetising electoral challenges are on the table. While there is a sense that Gospel Oak may have some new wriggle room for Labour’s opponents – there is said to be a fair share of voters there who voted for Brexit and are fed-up with the council for telling them they were wrong to do so – West Hampstead has been tabbed up as a Tory target for 2018 and a line of potential candidates are eyeing up the task of taking it on.
WHAT THEY DO AT CITY HALL
THE London elections and the personal battle between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith in May reinforced the concern that when people think of life at City Hall, they pretty much think of who the Mayor and not much else. So there’s all of those London Assembly members sitting there, and, aside from party hacks and niggly bloggers, nobody really knows – and worryingly, cares – who they are and what they do. You could blame the media for not showing enough interest, but maybe it’s up to the members do more to try and break through the dominance of the mayor in the City Hall story. Tom Copley and Sian Berry have succeeded to some extent in this, but using your questions to ask the Mayor to fund a ‘public information campaign’ on getting people to use the bell on buses, like Caroline Pidgeon did last week, might not be the obvious way to get more people enthused. Predictably, Sadiq batted this one away with confirmation that it was not a ‘widespread issue’.
LIVING ROOM LABOUR
CONGRATULATIONS to former Islington councillor Kate Groucott on the birth of daughter Neasa Constance on Friday evening. Her husband Conor McGinn, the Labour MP in St Helens, reports: “Those ‘Labour delivers all year round’ leaflets will take on a new meaning in St Helens. Dad is only slightly traumatised after delivering the baby on the living room floor when she decided to arrive a bit quicker than expected… so quickly in fact that she beat the ambulance to it, meaning I had to have a crash course in midwifery over the phone with a 999 call-handler. Neasa is healthy and content and we feel very lucky and happy to have her.”
IT’S not just Caroline Pidgeon who risked frittering her questions to the Mayor last week with stuff about bus bells. Tory Andrew Boff entertained with a question, which might have simply have read: Mr Mayor, are you a big head?
FINALLY, cutbacks at Twitter has led to one of its creations, Vine, the six second video loop app, being discontinued. This means I have to surrender the 12.5 million loops I had amassed mainly from some footage of Andy Murray’s wife swearing, the only social media I was winning at. The video was deleted a long time ago. Long story. A few other efforts survive, including Boris Johnson and David Cameron riffing about the CNJ’s sister paper, the Islington Tribune. On Cameron’s one, the grease-guffaws from the MP in the background makes the moment, as if not laughing loudly enough would ruin her chances of ever making the cabinet.