I DON’T know what it’s like for the punters or the organisers, but these candidate selection meetings are curious affairs: You always feel like you know the result before anybody steps through the door, and two hours later the person who most people assumed would win, wins.
Both Kemi Badenoch and Henry Newman, confident speakers this evening in front of a large turnout at the Hampstead Synagogue, were being talked about as ‘future MPs’ after the decision was made. But it was Claire-Louise Leyland who to the surprise of few inside or outside the room, emerged as the winner after the limited intrigue of a run-off with Henry.
This predictability isn’t a slight on Claire-Louise, and the fact that the person who has been involved in Camden’s front line council politics the longest got the gig is some form of antidote to the way councillors are often overlooked as second class candidates by both the central offices of the Conservative and Labour parties. CLL also earned some stripes by contesting West Tyrone last time, taking the flack at the hustings in a seat the Tories had no chance of winning and the teasing of Labour politicians back in Camden.
The choice of a local, political figure will be less of a consolation to Siobhan Baillie, the Frognal councillor who had been nominated locally but not shortlisted by Tory HQ. Central Office, instead, threw two different candidates at the meeting instead of her. One – someone of a fair profile within the party – appears to have realised that Claire-Louise was bound to win and pulled out on Monday evening. Other potential parachutists to a winnable seat were also put off, apparently, by that prospect. Siobhan’s time, meanwhile, will come eventually, her supporters assure me.
And so it is, we’ve got CLL vs Tulip (vs Kirsty and anyone else who steps into the breach), old council rivalries revived in the six week grid of a snap election campaign. The Conservative candidate has urged for a bit more politeness in Camden’s council politics during her time as Tory group leader over the years. Let’s see if things stay that way.