Election daily: Labour’s rebel campaign within a campaign

4 days to go…


LABOUR activists and campaigners are sort of running a campaign within a campaign in Frognal and Fitzjohns, the ward which has always been considered a Conservative candidate. The candidates there have reportedly been up roads that haven’t been canvassed by Labour since the late 1990s. The long driveways and steep lanes in some parts of the wards have not often been rewarded with votes for Labour. It is seen as the safety net ward to prevent the ruling party from winning all seats in the council chamber on Thursday.

While Labour leader Georgia Gould has generally adopted a ‘no candidate left behind’ approach to the campaign, this is the only opposition-ward she has not joined the doorstep operation in recent weeks. This all makes the efforts of Rebecca Shirazi, Gail McAnena Wood and Richard Chadwick all the more intriguing, as rather than pen their names in as paper candidates like every Labour candidate who has stood here in the past, they have been trawling for votes behind enemy lines.

It’s become a bit of a renegade campaign, by some accounts, with the candidates ripping up the strategy book by rarely leaving the ward (according to people who think they’ve got the priorities wrong) to join the wider campaign and remaining steadfastly determined to prove the rest of the party wrong. Owen Jones arrived earlier in the piece to support these specific candidates. This has all been treated as comedy by some of their colleagues in other parts of the borough, who privately say they are a bemused by the effort and, on a personal level, fear there could be a crushing blow coming for those involved. If you spend weeks marching the streets and then lose by more than 500 votes, it’s going to sting a little.

Others within the Labour ranks are a little less empathetic about expectation management, and say they should be realistic and transfer their energy to official target wards. The old story was that Labour would go to Frognal, tweet a picture to show they were there, just to prickle the Conservatives, and then head off to canvass in more fertile areas. Not this time, now they are traipsing up Branch Hill and knocking on the doors, and occasionally muttering about the lack of belief from above.

Maybe some of this gung-ho street-fighting lies in frustration around the Labour candidate selection process. Ms Shirazi was held up in getting onto the approved list of candidates, by which time some of the more winnable seats were gone. To pull off what amounts to the unthinkable in Camden’s politics, winning Frognal, would be one way of proving a point. Even going within 200/250 votes would to be fair.

Despite the Labour noise, the Conservatives are not really worried about the ward, even if they have released attack leaflets aimed directly at Labour’s candidates here. Their current leader and maybe their future leader – for that is how Henry Newman is often talked about behind closed doors – are standing in F&F and they have a cushion of 746 votes, the gap to the fourth place Labour opponent in 2014. The bigger question remains around how many councillors any future leader of the Camden Conservatives, whoever they are, may actually be leading.


IN the close-to-call Highgate ward, a leaflet campaign has begun by demonstrators of the Labour council’s move to redevelop the Highgate Newtown Community Centre. It’s not orchestrated by the Green Party, and comes from the objectors themselves. Some protesters wrote to the CNJ last week, insisting it should be an election issue. I’m parking this one here for now, however, as apparently messages going door to door are stronger than those published in the paper, and are being taken up by the Labour election team and its lawyers to see if any electoral or libel laws have been broken.


THE Conservatives enjoyed a pep talk from former culture secretary Ed Vaizey on Sunday. Guess where? Yes, yes. no points for getting this one: Outside the Waitrose in Finchley Road. They should pitch a permanent tent. It’s not only the location that’s getting familiar, but the arrival of morale-boosting MPs to the supermarket forecourt has also revealed something of a campaign uniform for special guess out in their weekend civvies. Mark it up it on the How To Be A Leading Tory manual: 1. Buy a dark blue padded coat. Or are Mr Vaizey, Sajid Javid, Chris Philp and Shaun Bailey all sharing the same one?


THE mild talk of how Angela Rayner standing next to Keir Starmer in Highgate on Friday could one day become a picture of a future Labour leadership contest discounts the fact that the market leader with most bookies right now is Islington South MP Emily Thornberry. She is seen as someone could woo both sides of Labour’s split ranks… and here she is saying the word woo in Soho. On a Labour campaign vid, the ‘queen of sass’, as members call her, actually wants to talk about Hillary Su, the Conservative candidate challenged to explain her views on homosexuality (she denies any prejudice), but gets the name wrong and ends up in an awkward rhyme about: Hillary woo, who knew?


ONE of the other Conservative candidates in the battle for Soho is well known in Camden parts. Tim Barnes has stood in Camden Council elections before and was the parliamentary candidate in Holborn and St Pancras just last year. We got a new insight into what makes him tick when he appeared Soho Radio earlier this month. Asked to pick a song in a Desert Island Discs type way, he chose Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life, explaining how he had taken a date to the cinema to see that obvious romantic lovefest of a film…  Trainspotting. “I remember walking out of one cinema just on the edge of the West End here, with a girl I was dating at the time, and it was at the moment I walked out that I thought ‘actually I rather like this place – and I think I love her”. Swit-swoo…


IT’S a wet start to the week, a miserable day for canvassing. We better keep an eye on the forecast if the old election story rings true that a sunny turnout means a bigger turnout which, if you believe the fable, means things will turn out better in Camden for Labour?FLASHBACK

WHEN going through the flashback photos of the 2010 count, the year Labour won control of the council back, the faces of people who we went on to lose in office do shine through – and it’s worth a pause to remember their contribution.

Martin Davies (pictured with Laura Trott and Andrew Mennear) became the leader of the Conservative group soon after the elections but died aged 45 in June of that year. This was probably the last time I saw him. He was a kind, compassionate man who had friends on all sides of the chamber after 12 years as a councillor.

Dave Horan (pictured with Georgia Gould and Meric Apak) also died soon after the elections, September 2010. Having worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s office for so long you can only imagine what he would have thought of the last few years.

Peter Brayshaw (pictured with Roger Robinson and Samata Khatoon) returned to the council in 2010. He won again in 2014 too, but passed away later that year. “If he agreed with you it wasn’t to garner favour it was because he believed it was right, if he disagreed he did so honestly and without future prejudice,” Sarah Hayward, the then council leader said, about his spirit of fairness.



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