AFTER the last general election we took a look at how those who had gone further afield in search of a parliamentary seat had fared at the ballot box. It’s worth doing again for this election, as over the years it has become pretty standard business for councillors and activists to gravitate towards parliament. The House of Commons is stuffed with people who passed through Camden on their way to Westminster.
So while we know what happened in Hampstead and Kilburn and Holborn and St Pancras ten days ago, here’s how some of the faces who have been part of Camden’s political story in recent years got on trying to follow in their footsteps elsewhere.
Who? Conservative councillor in Frognal
Stood? Bermondsey and Old Southwark
OUT on loan in what was pretty much unwinnable territory south of the river, Frognal councillor Siobhan Ballie nevertheless won new friends as she tasted some of the general election experience from the front. We don’t really need to rake over the ground again too much, but there were some members who, at the very least, wanted her to have the chance to argue her case to be the Conservative candidate at the Hampstead and Kilburn selection meeting. You can still detect some irritation among her biggest fans that central office seemed so resolutely against the idea.
She had already been monkeyed around over attempts to reach the London Assembly, and the frustration among her supporters is that she had been encouraged to take more active roles as an articulate, young woman only for doors to slam in her face when she put her herself forward.
Nobody is saying she would have been selected ahead of Claire-Louise Leyland, nor is anybody suggesting that the Tories would’ve ended up with a different result with a different candidate… they just felt she was unfairly deprived of an opportunity. Still, she was game enough to take on Sir Simon Hughes and Labour’s Neil Coyle, who held his seat with an extended majority. The willing shown here and the fact she nudged up the Tory share of the vote may lead to safer seat selectors paying more attention next time.
Who? Former Labour councillor
ON election night, the batphone buzzed with messages which just said things like: ‘Three words – Mike Katz MP’. That euphoric relief which London Labour candidates and campaigners were feeling as they realised they were not going to be wiped out had some of them wondering whether things would get so heady that former Camden councillor Mike Katz, with so many hard luck tales to tell, would have the last laugh and reach the Commons. With the outcomes of Camnden’s constituencies obvious from the moment we reached the counting hall in Somers Town, how Mike was doing became a bit of a distraction.
He was standing in Hendon, taking the baton on from Andrew Dismore, who had lost the last two elections to the Tories – once by a little (106), then two years ago by a quite a bit more (3,724). Truth be told, it wasn’t really a seat on Labour’s radar, not least because campaigners had been told that they’d struggle to get anywhere in a constituency with a large Jewish community after the internal controversies of the past two years. Yet by the end of it, they were wondering whether a few more resources might have sent Mike over the line. “If we’d known Tulip [Siddiq] was going to run away with it in Hampstead and Kilburn and say Catherine West was building a 30,000 majority in Lynne Featherstone’s old seat, then maybe more teams would have gone to Hendon,” said one heavily-involved Camden member. “It’s easy to say that now of course.”
In the end Mike, seen above on J-TV arguing over a fizzing internet connection with Tory winner Matthew Offord as to whether he was imposed as the candidate in Hendon or not, lost by just 1,072 votes. That’s not a bad effort and surely makes it a target seat territory for Labour next time Hendon votes. I think some of his colleagues back in Camden had become quite taken with the sudden idea of a sweet victory for a politician who had lost his fair share of selection contests just to get on Camden Council in the first place and was then deselected by his own comrades once there. Having performed so much better than Andrew Dismore’s result in 2015, by apparently leading a sharper and more streetwise campaign, he’ll surely be invited back for another go if the nation really does head to the polls again in the autumn or next spring.
It might be worth noting that members of Tulip’s campaign believe she polled at a similar level or higher among the Jewish community in her constituency than she did in 2015, but the question remains: Did Mike do better here than some might have expected because Labour wasn’t punished for its anti-semitism controversies after all – or is it the case that he would have actually won without the baggage of Ken Livingstone’s suspension and so on. I’ll duck for cover on that one, and let you all decide at home.
Who? Labour councillor in Kilburn
Stood? Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
THE man who began his journey to the green benches of Camden Council when Mike was de-selected in Kilburn, Douglas Beattie was looking for an improbable upgrade in a Tory-held seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, improbable because the Consevatives have a grip on that seat with the SNP and Labour only disputing second place over the years. It turned out to be a quite eventful few weeks in Scotland, however. Douglas had to lock his tweets after someone, perhaps predictably, scanned his Twitter history and set up a story which the Daily Mail and The Sun adored – the latter described him as ‘the warped Labour councillor from Camden’ – about old tweets in which he talked of the ‘propaganda’ behind Remembrance Sunday poppies. He was also attacked for his lines on the Northern Ireland peace process, which included: “Few actors in Troubles without blood on hands, inc many soldiers”, and they lapped up his tweet that he was ‘gutted’ that Remain had won the Scottish independence referendum.
There’s probably a lesson there for anybody thinking of standing in any election, but Douglas isn’t really afraid of putting his view out there. He braved a backlash, for example, when he said that Camden Council shouldn’t raise flags on Armed Forces Day because he didn’t see military solutions to the world’s problems and was against any glamourisation of conflict. Sound familiar? Back in Camden, his opinions on these things are so well known that he is more likely to be teased by colleagues for telling voters in DCT, as it’s known, that the Scottish constituency was “still his home”… so not Dartmouth Park or the Kilburn High Road then. The return of the prodigal son? A slight tweaking of his interview here, with a more celebratory backing tune, is surely needed:
Who? Highgate council election candidate
Stood? North Tyneside
HERE’S another guy tipped to make it to the Commons, somewhere, some day, the well-connected Henry Newman must however wait for more favourable conditions after a brief adventure in North Tyneside. Of course, we were left short of belfies while he was up north, but the trade-off for the Conservatives was a candidate who helped increase their vote share in a Labour stronghold by more than eight percent, largely at the expense of UKIP.
He is still on the slate to stand in Highgate at next year’s council elections and will no doubt have heard from excited Tories spreading the news of how they were outscoring Green councillor Sian Berry in that ward on the day. Maybe so, but will columns about sticking to the Conservatives’ Brexit plan help win support in Remain-heavy N6? Rivals are not so sure. In a post-election op-ed, he tells us to forget about staying in the Customs Union and lambasts former chancellor George Osborne for some of the Evening Standard‘s reporting of the debate.
Who? Barnet councillor who stood for the London Assembly seat for Barnet and Camden last year
CUE up Thin Lizzy again, for here’s another London lad returning to his childhood roots in search of a parliamentary seat: Dan Thomas, the deputy leader of Brent Council, was standing in Neil Kinnock’s old constituency in South Wales. It’s two election defeats in as many years for Dan, but while he may have been given a fighting chance against Andrew Dismore in last year’s London elections contest for the Barnet and Camden assembly seat, the result was fairly predictable here. Like Henry Newman in North Tyneside, he put on new votes for the Tories, increasing the share by 12 percent at the expense of UKIP, but this has been Labour territory for time immemorial. Neither wine nor leaflets from Theresa May were going to change that.
Who? Former chairman of the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives
Stood? Carmarthen East & Dinefwr
“IT is a huge honour to be selected to fight my home seat at this general election,” said Havard Hughes, the former chairman of the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives who also went back to Wales. Before anyone could say his home seat should surely be in north London and not Carmarthen, he had found himself in a rare three-way battle and was actually not so far away from winning. With UKIP bleeding votes through Neil Hamilton, Labour and the Tories took advantage, although ultimately only to the extent of narrowing the gap on Plaid Cymru winner Jonathan Edwards.
Who? Former Lib Dem councillor in Islington who stood for parliament in Hampstead and Highgate in 1997 and Islington South in 2005 and 2010
Stood? Cities of London and Westminster
IN a portfolio of parliamentary missions, Bridget Fox very nearly became an MP back in 2005 when she ran Emily Thornberry close to the line in Islington South. The Labour MP won by 484 votes and the rest, as we know, is history with many now regarding the constituency as a ‘seat for life’. They duelled again in 2010 but the gap only widened and these days the Lib Dems, once in charge at Islington Council, are in third place. Bridget, however, is always up for one more go and at this election she stood against Mark Field in Westminster.
While she was onto a more obvious loser here – Field saw his majority cut but was being chased by Labour rather than the Lib Dems – she did turn out for the hustings, which is more than can be said for the Conservative MP. Bizarrely, Field did not turn up to a debate at the St Mary-Le-Bow church on the basis that he did not want a repeat of the “foul mouthed abuse” that he’d apparently suffered in the normally reverential setting of a religious building.
The Reverend George Bush (real name) said afterwards: “One candidate had brought supporters that were very rude about Mark. I wasn’t happy about that at all. Nevertheless, it is a parliamentary hustings, the only one for the seat, and you have to take the rough with the smooth.” To Bridget’s credit, that’s what she appears to have done over all these years, even if there has been a bit more rough to her election results, than smooth.
Who? Former Islington North candidate
Stood? Brentwood and Ongar
HERE’S a good example of try and try again, as Alex Burghart claimed a place in parliament just two years after toiling as the Tory candidate handed the unenviable task of taking on Jeremy Corbyn in Labour stronghold Islington North. He said he would “dance a jig (and try to resuscitate Jeremy Corbyn)” when asked by the Islington Gazette what he’d do if he somehow overturned Corbyn’s mammoth majority. Little did he know then, that he was referring to the next leader of the Labour Party.
Burghart was already known in local Conservative ranks, however, for trying to win the selection in Hampstead and Kilburn ahead of the 2015 election, when the people voting at an open primary decided that Simon Marcus would be a better choice instead. Simon didn’t win against Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and some Conservatives complain of an ultimately lacklustre campaign, but both Burghart and the other runner-up at the selection vote, Seema Kennedy, have now gone on to be MPs. Burghart increased the retiring Eric Pickles’ majority in Brentwood and Ongar and is tipped to move upwards from here on in.
Who? Former chairman of Holborn and St Pancras Conservatives
I’VE got to admit I was a bit worried for Tom Smith: very soon after being selected to stand in Blaydon (I’ve checked Wikipedia, it’s 277 miles away and another Tyne and Weir seat) the north Londoner tweeted a picture which made him seem very homesick. A street sign which almost spelt Holborn!
But by the end of the contest, he’d successfully put some of the old band back together with several Camden Tories, including Will Blair, helping out on the campaign trail. And, folks, how many people get personalised campaign t-shirts, eh? When Tom has made it to Downing Street, or whichever high office awaits in the future, these will cost an arm and a leg when they come up as collector’s items on eBay in 20 years time.
As for Blaydon, like some of the others on the list here, Tom hiked the Conservative vote, also presumably at the expense of UKIP, but Labour held onto a seat it has bossed for decades.
Who? Camden Conservative campaigner from West Hampstead
Stood? Brent Central
IT wasn’t such a long trip for Rahoul Bhansall who stood against Dawn Butler in Brent Central, a place where he retains fond memories for its McDonalds.
The Tories had more votes here than last time, but a slightly smaller share of the vote as Butler increased her majority, which is now almost 28,000 and surely safe seat territory for Labour. The MP’s defeat to Sarah Teather in 2010 seems a long time ago now.
Who? Former London Assembly member who was runner up in Hampstead and Kilburn selection contest
Stood? Saffron Walden
FINALLY, here’s another swings and roundabouts story which proves perseverance could be the lesson for anybody who didn’t make it this time around. Leave supporter Kemi Badenoch came third in the selection contest for the Hampstead and Kilburn candidacy last month, but days later the London Assembly member got more than a consolation prize by being chosen in Saffron Walden, a safe as you like Tory seat. She’s sitting on a majority just shy of 25k, and must be breathing a sigh of relief that members in Camden did not choose her to run here.