OPPONENTS have been gently teasing the Tories over these last few days with the line: How have Labour and the Lib Dems got a candidate in a key seat like Hampstead and Kilburn, but the Conservatives – who are after all called for this snap general election – are yet to tell us who will be on the ballot paper for them? And I’m told there won’t be one installed by the weekend. Instead the final selection will be made at a members meeting in the constituency on Tuesday evening. The councillors Claire-Louise Leyland and Siobhan Baillie remain the current tipsters’ choice for potential candidates, but there is likely to be at least three names on the final shortlist next week. The party has accepted there is no time to stage another open primary event.
Both The Sun and The Mirror plugged Tulip Siddiq’s name inside the top 12 most vulnerable Labour MPs in their editions this morning. These wipeout predictions are very broadbrush and do not take into account a lot of the things Tulip retains in her favour, a lot of which is detailed in today’s New Journal.
But you can maybe understand the caution and deliberation over the Tory candidate selection process: If you believe the Conservatives are going to win here then they are potentially picking the first Tory MP for Hampstead and Kilburn since 1992, a territory which apparently feels like a promised land for a band of NW3 leaflet-shovers scarred by successive defeats to Glenda Jackson and then Tulip.
Some local activists say they also want to make sure they secure a candidate who comes with the absolute belief that victory is possible this time; a throwback to some of the differences of opinion which were hardly disguised in the aftermath of the 2015 election over the amount of va-va-voom brought to the campaign by candidate Simon Marcus. A few still talk about how he moved out of the area almost as soon as the result was known.
Will Blair, another of the Camden Conservatives on the centrally-held list of pre-approved parliamentary candidate, is interested in another tilt at standing at a general election, after his second place in Holborn and St Pancras last time. He may pop up somewhere else but he is understood to be leaving the challenge in Hampstead and Kilburn to others. Oliver Cooper, occasionally billed as ‘the next Chris Philp’ by Labour opponents, and Gio Spinella both say they are happy as councillors and did not apply to join the list of candidates. Andrew Mennear, who once went very close in Finchley and Golders Green, is also not interested in the task and had already said he was ready to step back from local politics by not seeking re-election to his council seat next May.