WITH no time to hold one of their ‘open’ primaries to find a candidate – open was always seemed a flexible word for a system in which everybody knew who the winner would be before they began – the Conservatives in Hampstead and Kilburn are waiting for news from central office as to how they will pick a battle-ready candidate to take on Tulip Siddiq. That snap general election is suddenly just six weeks ago, and it hasn’t just caught Labour by surprise: local Tory activists are also having to react as quickly to it as everybody else.
Speculation surrounds whether candidates could be forced on constituencies, but this could be a way of shooting themselves in the foot in an area like Hampstead and Kilburn, where there are so many candidates on the patch who would feel overlooked if that happened. The loss of goodwill could be harmful if somebody was parachuted into Hampstead.
Instead, then, it may fall to local associations to quickly choose their own candidates through a very brief selection process. Hopefuls would have to come from the pre-approved list of parliamentary candidates though, which is thought to include local Conservative leader Claire-Louise Leyland, who stood in a Northern Ireland in 2015, and Frognal councillor Siobhan Baillie, currently preparing to run the London Marathon on Sunday. They are pictured on a slavery protest above. Several other well-known local activists, who have been talked about in the past as being potential candidates, are apparently missing from the list.
Both of Claire-Louise and Siobhan were on the Remain side at last year’s EU referendum, and the early gossip is alive with talk of how risky it would be to field a candidate who was alternatively in the Leave camp here, a constituency, after all, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union.
The Liberal Democrats had already picked as Kirsty Allan as its candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn last year in anticipation that Theresa May would call a quick election.