WHY didn’t you mention Mike Greene?, a couple of Conservatives on the campaign trail asked me while I was out doing election interviews today. This was in connection with past posts about the swirling anticipation over who the Tory general election candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn will be, and the upbeat belief within the local party that they will actually be picking the next MP for the constituency when they finally make a decision.
That final selection is due on Tuesday but apparently there are some old stagers here with long memories who would love Mike, a former Camden councillor who was so close to getting his hands on a safe Commons seat in Bournemouth West almost ten years ago, to make a dramatic return to politics in our borough.
While he lives on the south coast, he often makes trips back to Hampstead, where he was always seen as a popular figure. In fact, he has the stats to prove that last sentiment, for in the 2006 council elections he won more votes than any other candidate across the whole borough, The last time I saw him was in Manchester, when he was still catching up with Camden colleagues of yesteryear for a conference pint. Labour would probably not relish him popping up again, and apparently he has been sounded out by some of his old friends about his possible interest.
That close call in Bournemouth West, saw him reach the last two on the shortlist in the Conservatives’ search to find a candidate for the 2010 general election, when his opponent, Rebecca Harris, bagged the selection in Castle Point, Essex, where she is now an MP, and pulled out of the contest. Rather than simply giving the candidature to Mike, however, the association down on the south coast re-ran the whole process and he missed out.
So, with Hampstead and Kilburn on a knife-edge and the party probably needing local knowledge rather than a spad-with-a-parchute over a short six-week campaign, could Mike be tempted to run here? The timetable is certainly not in his favour if he is to make a late move as I understand he has not approached anyone about the gig so far, but he was naughty with his noncommittal answers when I contacted him earlier.
I got neither a yes or no.
Current councillors Claire-Louise Leyland and Siobhan Baillie are still among the market leaders, but three or four names will apparently be on the final shortlist and the constituency is said to have sparked much interest among ambitious Conservatives in recent days.