LOOK INTO LINDA CHUNG’S EYES
“YOUR coverage has not been evenly balanced between the three competing parties. Time we met so I can look into your eyes and tell you why,” reads a slightly creepy tweet from former Hampstead councillor Linda Chung. It was one of a series of tweets yesterday in which the local Lib Dems claimed to have been given a rum deal in terms of press coverage stemming, it seems, from the fact they were not mentioned in a piece about whether Labour candidates would be ‘voting fodder’ if they seize seats in the Belsize ward on May 3. The New Journal had already reported the fact that this ward might be the closest we have to a three-way contest, but that’s been overlooked.
On the wider point about why the Lib Dems have not been mentioned more in the election daily: 30 days to go and we have neither a manifesto or a candidate list. We are assured these are both imminent. Flick Rea’s council chamber speeches, meanwhile, have been entertaining since the Lib Dems became a group again at the Town Hall, but not laden with new policies for us to discuss.
It’s also a little whiffy to say the Lib Dems do not get coverage in Camden, given we’ve run around the country from Bournemouth to Glasgow on their trail, handed Maajid Nawaz more coverage than his final result in Hampstead and Kilburn perhaps merited and ran a fly-on-the-wall feature when Ed Fordham was challenging for the same parliamentary seat. These pages have also focused on Cllr Rea’s durability in Fortune Green many times, and Cllr Marshall, who started the ‘debate’, yesterday has received lots of airtime for his views on the Tory approach to Brexit, his resignation and his new membership with the Lib Dems.
This is why I find the ‘we don’t get any press’ moan a little stale. None of this, of course, is likely to hold any weight with certain Lib Dems who sometimes talk as if the last two general elections and last London elections – the three recent guides – haven’t shown the party struggling. Last year, for example, in the Belsize ward, the party won 464 votes, before postals. The same score is unlikely to get anybody elected to the council. We do all know local polls can be different, however, which is why the paper said it could be a 3-way.
Out of interest, the Conservatives scored 2,085 (but are also thought to have wiped the floor with the postal ballots) and Labour hit 2,726, hence the talk of it being a target ward for them. I’m happy to look into Ms Chung’s eyes and explain any of that but – note to self – don’t answer back more than twice on Twitter: the Liberal Democrats in ‘somebody is wrong on the internet’ mode will always have one more reply.
More on the manifesto when we get it.
LABOUR canvassers were kept waiting on the doorstep when they chanced upon the home of the Daily Mail‘s waspish columnist Andrew Pierce over the weekend. The team in Frognal did not appear to recognise him – and he amused himself by declaring himself as an undecided voter. Note: wherever you are, whoever you are being canvassed by, the eyes of doorknockers light up like Christmas trees if you say ‘undecided’ and you can be there for hours while they give you the full spiel. On this occasion, it was all a waste of puff for Labour’s activists. This is a journalist, after all, known as ‘Tory Boy’ in his double act with the Daily Mirror‘s Kevin Maguire and Mr Pierce has even been a guest speaker at fund-raiser for the Hampstead Conservatives.
THE PURE PARTY
IT wasn’t just the prospect of an Osley stare-out that Linda Chung was tweeting about over Easter. She also solemnly told us all: “I joined the Liberal Democrats because they are the only party which has never shown any prejudice or racism towards others. Sadly I cannot say this for Labour or the Conservatives.”
Less than a month ago, Vince Cable, the party’s leader, told a room full of Lib Dems: “Looking around the auditorium we are very, very white. We must proprieties making our party more ethnically diverse.” Maybe Mr Cable is aware that insisting your party is pure from any form of racism and prejudice is a holy but fraught path to take. Baroness Jenny Tongue was a Lib Dem peer, was she not, when she said: “Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel.” This was the culmination of a series of comments which made life difficult for Nick Clegg and the party’s leadership.
Ms Chung’s party was also accused of “underhand racism” by Pauline Pearce, the black heroine of Hackney, who wanted to run to be the party’s president. She’s now the mayoral candidate in Hackney, but there was patching up to do if you wind back to 2014 and her view: “Since running for president I’ve realised this party isn’t what I thought when it comes to diversities and being inclusive.” Then there was Lesley Holloway, the secretary to the party’s Ethnic Minority Committee who left the party when a comment about Africans not knowing what a toilet was apparently went unchallenged. “The party has only two African or Caribbean prospective parliamentary candidates selected for the general election and they are both in unwinnable seats,” he said. “We have done virtually nothing in the four-and-a-half years in government, in terms of bringing in policies of note to tackle endemic race and equality issues.” We probably don’t need a full history of claims of racism and prejudice in one party or another, but it’s a bold for Ms Chung to be sure that the party has “never shown any prejudice or racism towards others”.
TODAY’S flashback has to be one of those many nights spent taking pictures of yellow, winning here diamonds, back in the day. This was Rahel Bokth (we hardly heard a peep from him when he was actually a councillor if we are honest) winning a seat in the delayed council election in Haverstock in 2010. The ward was run at a later date than the main elections after candidate Syed Hoque sadly died during the campaign. The paper which never covers the Lib Dems on camera duty here.