A STROLL around the Queens Park Farmers Market in the sunshine is meant to be a chilled out Sunday morning experience as north Londoners decide whether they want some organic swede for dinner, or the venison sausages. There’s convincingly expensive bottles of apple juice to be snaffled too, plus the obligatory sourdough, a queue for rich coffee and this morning, one last touch to reassure you that you are in the right place, Guy Garvey, the singer from Elbow, pottering around the stalls.
Today, however, there were stands that wanted a different kind of custom. Inside the playground at Salusbury Primary School, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq planted her ‘Meet Your MP’ kite, right opposite the fancy hot dog stand, taking questions from all comers and holding an informal surgery.
On the other side of the wall, the Conservative flags were flying ahead of the June 8 general election and activists were canvassing the passing trade with leaflets detailing once more how Tulip had nominated Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader when the Islington North MP was scrambling around for help to get on the ballot paper in 2015. Ed Vaizey, the former Conservative culture secretary, no less, completed this curious scene, providing a pre-canvass pep talk, insisting that Hampstead and Kilburn would turn blue for the first time effectively since 1992. The Lib Dems were there too, with candidate Kirsty Allan already in place promising to offer an alternative to Brexit.
This had all been going on for about a couple of hours when the Tories seemed to grow a little of tired of being stuck outside of the market while Tulip had the prime location inside. A huddle of them began standing behind her desk while she was being interviewed, holding up their Corbyn leaflets; for they are highly-amused that he does not appear on Tulip’s election material. Then, a woman wearing a Conservative sticker approached the bench, leading to what may go down as the first angry skirmish between the two sides in what after all is a tense electoral battleground. If you recall the battle for the Kilburn High Road in 2015, we’ve seen before how both parties are happy to intrude on their rivals’ campaign events.
Here it left Tulip and her supporters smarting, mainly for the moment the issue of her support for the Dubs Amendment and support for refugee children came up, which her questioner described as ‘one little policy’. It all got further strained, and others around the table got involved, her nom for Corbyn was raised again. I posted a clip on Twitter earlier, but here’s the full exchange, possibly as a taster of how this election campaign could pan out.