Election daily: ‘The only party? That’s never been part of the British tradition’

20 days to go…


ALAN Bennett’s support for the Labour Party is on record so perhaps it was not a surprise to hear him talk positively about Jeremy Corbyn offering “hope” at Friends Meeting House in Euston last night. The playwright was there as a guest of Camden mayor Richard Cotton for a fund-raiser in aid of the C4WS charity, which works with the homeless. It raised a healthy £10,000, well done Mr Mayor. But what would the purdah umpires say of an event like this, just weeks before our council elections? Here’s a night organised in the mayor’s parlour and featuring a star guest who was, as expected, taking chunks out of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. See more of what he said in the CNJ.

Apparently no rules have been broken. There is a feint whisper, however, on the campaign trail around the old debate about Labour’s unwillingness to share the mayoralty, as the Liberal Democrats and Tories had done when they ruled Camden. Always have a Labour mayor, always have supportive guest speakers, goes the grumble. Perhaps a more interesting question ahead of these particular set of council elections in Camden would be to ask Mr Bennett whether he still relates to his view of the Conservatives in 2015. He told the Guardian: “It’s not merely that they want to be the governing party, but the only party, and that’s never been a part of the British political tradition.”


HELL hath no fury like a councillor deselected? In neighbouring Westminster, Glenys Roberts, a Conservative bumped off ‘mysteriously’ by her own party after 18 years as a councillor, is urging residents to give “lots of support” to the single issue candidates standing in opposition to the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. She tweeted recently of her absence on the ballot paper for the first time in nearly two decades, explaining that she would “prefer to make the decision myself but have been mysteriously deselected.” Another Conservative candidate Paul Church has meanwhile stepped down in West End ward after infighting. As mentioned previously, the former Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary candidate Tim Barnes has been selected to stand there.


WE mustn’t get offended but recent Conservative Party leaders, in power or not, have seemed reluctant to come for a campaign event in Camden, where the little ol’ Camden New Journal might get to ask a question or two. Every Labour leader since John Smith has given us some time, but it’s not been the same deal with the Tories. Given Hampstead and Kilburn was a top target at the general election in 2015 and billed as possible gain last year, it remains a surprise that neither David Cameron or Theresa May came a couple of miles up the road to see their members on the ground. As with Sadiq Khan’s recent Camden-phobia, it’s hardly the Outer Hebrides.

With Camden not really the centre of attention at next month’s local elections, it is unlikely we will see Mrs May on the stump in the next few weeks this time either. International events may also keep her busy. Her husband, Philip, however was despatched for some crisps and phonebank campaigning in the upstairs room at the local Tory HQ in Heath Hurst Road, Hampstead,  this week.


THE Greens in Islington want the council to follow the example of Camden and start webcasting Town Hall meetings. Green councillor Caroline Russell says it “could encourage residents to engage more” with local politics. Labour council leader Richard Watts is not wholly opposed to the idea but told the Islington Tribune this week: “We did a pilot several years ago but literally nobody was watching.”

It makes you wonder how many tune into Camden’s live screenings and iPlayer-style re-runs. As the late Labour councillor Brian Woodrow used to joke at the start of virtually every planning meeting he chaired: “This meeting is being webcast, so welcome to all the people watching around the world, our viewers in New Zealand and Australia.”


WAITROSE in the Finchley Road is something of a landmark for local politics spotters. The Conservatives favour the forecourt for their stalls and flags. UKIP had a brief period stood there too, and more recently Labour have encroached, bringing Diane Abbott to rally the troops outside the supermarket before Christmas. Shoppers can’t get to the edamame beans without having a leaflet of some kind thrust in their faces. Inside the store, meanwhile, you do not have to be in the queue for the free filter coffee for long before former London Mayor Ken Livingstone will inevitably walk in.

Another to have spotted Mr Livingstone in the Finchley Road aisles is Julia Hartley Brewer, the Talk radio host who lives nearby. So, with a sketchy segment to fill about which supermarkets socialists are and aren’t allowed to go in, who better to call up for view.

Mr Livingstone told listeners it was fine for left-wingers to shop in Waitrose, regardless of its lofty connotations. “The justification for Waitrose is the quality of their food is better,” was Mr Livingstone’s simplest reply, having to be jogged by the host that he could’ve mentioned the retail group’s co-opish set-up


How about a blast from the past from Islington: In 2010, a similar result to Camden’s election saw Labour muscle back into power, leaving the declining Lib Dems devastated and paving the way for Catherine West (now MP for Hornsey and Wood Green), and then Richard Watts to lead the council.


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