After Richmond Park, how will Brexit candidates get on in Camden?

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IF it happened in Richmond Park, could it happen here? Needless to say, the Liberal Democrats, clinging onto one councillor in Camden, will hope Sarah Olney’s spectacular by-election triumph over Zac Goldsmith last week is the beginning of a comeback.

On the face of it, Goldsmith’s support for Brexit appeared more relevant to his defeat than anything else. So it’s areas like ours, with a high concentration of upset Remain voters and a not-too-distant history of side-swappping, particularly when inner doubts are touched by international issues rather than local ones, where the party would hope to now recover ground. Europe, it has been said many times over the last few days, has opened the door for them again.

So, while Labour members could not help but be struck by the embarrassing manner of defeat for Goldsmith, a foe from earlier in the year who still looks like he’s trying to win a knife fight with a lance, the party’s rearguard sprung into action on Friday morning sharing reminders, where people would listen, that the Lib Dems were still baddies for making a deal with the Tories. It’s six years ago now, and the fact Nick Clegg pops up everywhere, including at Olney’s campaign events, suggests the Lib Dems think having the clearest position on Brexit will trump re-heated pictures of his rose garden back-slaps.

Whether the Lib Dems can mobilise in Camden like they have in the past is nevertheless uncertain. They have taken such a battering at recent local and citywide elections that they’ve been chasing their losses for a while and the path back will be long and winding. Lots of the old team, which stormed the Town Hall barricades ten years ago, have moved away from Camden, some no longer live in the UK. The likes of former council leader Keith Moffitt have indicated, meanwhile, they will play more backstage roles as new faces are trusted with the baton; they will have to win without local fame and name recognition. And then there’s the likelihood that if the Lib Dems are to pile in on one north London constituency in a bid to gain back what they had, central office strategists are more likely to go for Hornsey and Wood Green than either parliamentary constituency in Camden. In terms of targets, local activist Zack Polanski tweeted this summer, ironically during his quest to get selected in Richmond Park, that he had been told our seats were not targets.


That was then, maybe now is different, because despite the hurdles ahead, the result in Richmond Park has generated a little bit of jumpiness from some (stress the word, ‘some,’ and not ‘all’ here) Labour and Tory members locally about the dangers of candidates who will stand here on a ticket of stopping Brexit at all costs. If the House of Commons is to vote on Article 50, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, already potentially spammed by boundary changes, could find herself in an awkward spot. She’d have to choose whether to follow the party line of carrying out the apparently crystal clear view of the public – the way you read the will of the people stuff sometimes, you’d have thought Leave won with 80 percent in June – and vote in favour of leaving the EU on negotiated terms. That’s a hard call against an opponent with the freedom of knowing a parliamentary majority is out of the question and able to be a missionary telling everybody that they would vote no to Brexit, whatever.

It’s potentially a long time until Tulip faces the public vote, but it’s not so long until Camden votes over who should be elected as councillors. Even more immediate is the candidate selection for those 2018 local polls. And that’s when we turn to the Conservatives, as they begin to draw up a list of potential candidates this winter. The potential is there for two new faces in Swiss Cottage for example, where Andrew Marshall is stepping down amid his great disillusionment with the referendum result. Given the manner in which the former group leader is going, do the Tories dare install Brexit-supporting candidates in his place? Here is a ward which Labour hope to challenge and maybe gain new seats; after seeing the notes from Richmond Park it would surely relish a run-off against any Conservative candidates who voted to leave.

7 Comments on After Richmond Park, how will Brexit candidates get on in Camden?

  1. Chris Knight // December 5, 2016 at 3:13 pm //

    Nice piece on Tories & LD’s, had the Conservatives put up a candidate it is quite possible that the result may have been the same by splitting the vote and also Richmond having been LD ground for a while, but one things for sure had the Tories put up a candidate the LD vote would have been a great deal lower, so my Lib Dem pals remember “one swallow etc”

    OK that said how about a comment on the beleaguered Labour Party and their candidate who lost his deposit which is of course is worse than last time round? and is this an indication of
    Jezza Corbyns ability to lead the party?

    Always good to see a bit of balanced comment.

  2. Osley, the idea that the way someone voted in the referendum, would be of importance when being selected as a Local Elections candidate, is pure fantasy. Where on earth are you getting this stuff from?

    • Richard Osley // December 5, 2016 at 10:35 pm //

      I wonder, Keith, if foreign policy and the wider world had any effect on your local victory in Gospel Oak in 2006? Just a thought, because the Conservatives don’t seem to have won there much, apart from a time when division and worry over international issues was clearly prevalent.

      • Sorry for not responding sooner, Oser, but I’ve been distracted by a household of kids with norovirus.

        Anyway, as I was saying, whilst international politics may influence local elections, as you point out, amongst the Camden Conservatives, they are of little importance in the selection of Candidates. I truly haven’t heard the matter of Brexit being discussed either by any of the candidates or selectors.

        Why the Conservatives haven’t won anything in Gospel Oak since 2006, is a subject worthy of a political dissertation, but reading between the lines, you seem to be saying that Gospel Oak is ripe for the taking, again. If so, I wouldn’t disagree with you.

        I’m sure my former neighbours on the ward’s council estates will have a lot to say about the Labour party’s leadership stance on uncapped immigration, on the Kier Starmer’s attempt to frustrate Brexit, and their local councilor’s insistence, that he knows better than his constituents. .

        Watch this space!

  3. Chris Knight // December 6, 2016 at 9:01 am //

    Morning Osser,
    I see you have replied to Sedger, what about a few words on my request from above, see below.

    “OK that said how about a comment on the beleaguered Labour Party and their candidate who lost his deposit which is of course is worse than last time round? and is this an indication of
    Jezza Corbyns ability to lead the party”?

    Oh and you could add a bit about Labours prospects given your sagacious comment on Tory Sedgers victory in GO 2006, by your reckoning then would your comment be total Labour meltdown?

    • Richard Osley // December 6, 2016 at 12:50 pm //

      Hello Knighty, first off, I shall endeavour to use the word ‘sagacious’ more in 2017.

      On the subject of Richmond Park, the Labour candidate did lose his deposit but I guess his supporters would say to your message: were the Conservatives worried about being embarrassed themselves when they decided not to field an official candidate.

  4. Chris Knight // December 10, 2016 at 4:04 pm //

    Hello again Osser, they might just say that but hey ho!

    How about a comment or two on Sleaford and Labours performance, if you won’t I will abysmal would sum it up. Time for Jezza to go don’t you think on the last two showings ?

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