BACK before last year’s snap general election, the Greens seemed willing to consider deals with other parties to ensure the Conservatives did not rack up a wild majority in the Commons and that MPs who favoured electoral reform were shielded from losing their seats. We were told of a loose ‘progressive alliance’. Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP, even went to one of their meetings as the idea of the Green Party not standing against her was discussed. A trade-off could not be agreed. Green members eventually voted against this proposal, with Labour, nationally, refusing to similarly stand down against Caroline Lucas in Brighton.
Faced with a similar threat of one party’s ultra-domination in Camden – this time in the form of Labour potentially taking more seats than some would say is healthy – it seemed only fair to ask at their manifesto launch whether the Greens had thought about any backstage agreements to combat the wipeout risk.
No. “We are not talking about deals,” said Ms Lucas, as she visited the Green manifesto launch outside Haddo House in Dartmouth Park. “What we are talking about is getting Greens elected onto councils and that’s the most important thing here in Camden: Getting Sian re-elected, getting John [Holmes] and Kirsten [de Keyser] elected too. We are confident that when people see what we’ve been doing, how Sian has been setting the agenda, we could get all three.”
In fact, she did not accept that there were any similarities between the two elections. Still in 2014 Leila Mars topped 400 votes for the Greens in Fortune Green, the sort of score which would see Flick Rea safely elected again if they were transferred to the Lib Dems, while, having only won by a margin 75 votes four years ago, surely Cllr Berry would not say no to having the 200 or so that the Lib Dems scrape together in Highgate.
Voters do not behave in obedient little packages and such transfers could never be guaranteed of course, but Cllr Berry did warn Green members gathered today that Labour could take every single seat in the council chamber on May 3. Which is why wipeout busters among some natural Conservative voters are said to be thinking about giving crosses for Cllr Berry and two Tories in Highgate (rather than three blues), and voting Cllr Rea and two Tories in Fortune Green; the anything but Labour tactic.
Labour troops, meanwhile, are understood to have been told they will need to push harder if they want to ensure they unseat the last Green on the council in Highgate. It was close last time, and worth remembering that three Green candidates polled over 1,000 votes in Highgate.
CAROLINE Lucas was not the only political leader to come to Camden this week. Theresa May made a flying visit yesterday to the Crick in Somers Town, alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. No time to talk to the CNJ, fair enough she was entertaining. Such understanding did not apparently apply to protesters outside and Remainers inside the building. Twitter account, @EUflagmafia, which wants people to place the EU flag in eye-catching places, reports that photocopies of the flag were surreptitiously held up in the background as the Prime Minister and her guest were given a tour.
AW, YOU GUYS
I CAN’T sign off for the day without saying thanks to everybody at the Camden New Journal after the newspaper was shortlisted in the annual Regional Press Awards. We were named among the top six high circulation local papers in the entire UK earlier, which feels like some kind of achievement considering some of the big groups we have to stand up against. William McLennan, who you should have seen investigating the Chalcots fire safety crisis, and Samantha Booth, who works for the Islington Tribune, our sister paper, have been nominated for individual reporting awards too, in Sam’s case for her work on the Croydon Tram Crash before she joined us from the Croydon Advertiser.
Obviously, it’s not the most assured times for local newspapers, people like reading them much more than spending money, but everybody at the office from the sales team, the admin staff, the sub-editors who lay out the pages and save me from most of the typos you see on these unfiltered pages, the boss, Eric, to the reporters who sit in a back garden office in Camden Town surrounded by foxes and parakeets, determinedly put their backs into trying to make an entertaining and challenging edition each week. I’ve been lucky to work with them all, and they deserve this recognition back from the industry itself.
SIAN Berry, as mentioned above, holds a seat for the Greens in Highgate by 75 votes four years ago, accepting the baton from Maya De Souza on the left. Natalie Bennett, right, went onto become the leader of the party and stood against Keir Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. Can they stay in the game on May 3? The signs suggest they just might.