Election daily: Sadiq heads to the (election) front line

2 days to go…


IF the rumours are correct and London Mayor Sadiq Khan makes a late eve-of-election appearance in Camden tomorrow, on behalf of Labour candidates in the north west of the borough, what does it really say about the state of our mayoral politics. It’s nearly three months since a community in Kentish Town, scarred in more ways than one by our bloodiest night of violence, asked him to visit. He did not come. Now, with votes and council seats at stake, he is apparently ready to play the star guest.

It’s sad he has not been able to spend an hour actually here in NW5 with relatives of the young men who died in February and the youth workers who are trying to solve what must sometimes feel like the impossible. And the families who are determined but scared – plain scared, understandably scared.

The Mayor did invite some of them to meet him, holding a summit at City Hall, lots of different stories poured into one mass meeting. But on the ground, it has been Sophie Linden, his deputy, who has been sent to speak at meetings and meet the distressed. With the best will in the world to Ms Linden, she isn’t the recognisable figure that Mr Khan is to all those around the Peckwater Estate.

Now, with votes and council seats at stake, Mr Khan is apparently ready to play the star guest in Camden. 

I know that any criticism of Mr Khan is seen as blasphemous in some quarters of the Camden Labour Party and I’m aware that some think the CNJ’s view on his approach to the Camden murders is unfair and unkind. He cannot possibly visit the scene of every knife death in London is a common take. That’s true and there is no severity league table, but here was a quite extraordinary episode where a van of killers allegedly hunted down their victims through the streets of Camden’s over the course of one evening. Maybe we will hear more when the cases come to court. Two died, it’s alleged it could have been more. It reads like a terrorist attack. 

It is also not some wild, shock jock editorial line from the New Journal to wonder if Mr Khan could be of some real reassurance if he followed in the footsteps of Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Georgia Gould and Keir Starmer to meet people on the patch. The request comes not from us but the community.And, yes, those close to the victims did also ask for the now departed Home Secretary Amber Rudd to visit too. She did not come either, and yet then quite brazenly decided to use these deaths as case studies in one of her speeches on knife crime. You can see why people may feel sceptical of the anguished words of politicians.

It’s a puzzle. Kentish Town is so near, it’s an issue that Mr Khan cares deeply about and, in the main, he is making a good fist of being the city’s mayor. And surely Camden Labour members have been pressing it with him, privately. The fact they have not been able to convince him to come over these last ten weeks makes it look like, rightly or wrongly, that our local Labour councillors have a strange lack of influence with a mayor of the same political persuasion. Which is not what he will say tomorrow, when rallying the election troops. He will say, no doubt, that it is vital that Labour candidates are elected and become the voice of the community.


THE Conservatives remain resolute, publicly at least, that Brexit is not the key factor in Thursday’s local elections. Instead voters, we are told, will be thinking more about waste removal and weekly bin collections.

Candidate Henry Newman then has no qualms about delivering another full-blooded article on Britain’s divorce from Europe just two days before he stands in Frognal and Fitzjohns. Writing in his day job role as director of Open Europe, Mr Newman urges Prime Minister Theresa May to hurry up with a decision on the customs union – and to resolve to leave it.

“In Parliament, it’s looking more and more possible that a majority in the Commons coalesces in favour of the Government forming a new Customs Union with the EU after Brexit,” he says in the piece for Conservative Home.  “As I’ve repeatedly argued, that would be an error. Only Turkey is outside the EU and in a Customs Union. Even those countries closest to the EU like Norway and Switzerland chart their own course on trade.

He goes on: “Mystifyingly, the Government seems reluctant to make a clear case for leaving the Customs Union. That reluctance may be compounded by the fact that it still hasn’t decided on its customs policy. We are over halfway through Article 50 and there are still two options on the table. But, rather than choosing one, the decision point has been repeatedly delayed. It’s time for a decision and to my mind there’s only one sensible choice.”

Anyway, about those bins…


A FORMER Liberal Democrat councillor in Islington says she will be voting for the Greens in her old ward this time around. Tracy Ismail appears on a leaflet circulating in St George’s ward, part of Tufnell Park and one of the closest wards to Camden. “This is one of the few places that have a realistic opportunity of electing anything other than Labour councillors,” she says. “Our choice here is to elect three Green Party councillors to provide balance on the council, or to elect three Labour councillors and risk a one-party state.”

On our side of the border, tactical voting and lending support has not been talked about too publicly, but don’t be fooled into thinking that some members of the opposition parties are not hoping that voters are doing the electoral arithmetic at home.


THE deselected Conservative councillor Glenys Roberts in Soho is not holding anything back on Twitter now… I’ve bleeped out the c-word in the middle of her picture as you may be reading this before 9pm.


WE’VE hardly mentioned Kilburn during this campaign, and yet it’s not so long ago that it was captured by the Liberal Democrats. Labour won it back, however, in 2010 with this youthful trio. There’s no need to reheat what happened to Mike Katz later on down the line in Kilburn. It’s superseded by the fact that he wasn’t so far away from winning a parliamentary seat in Hendon last year. It’s been said that his efforts helped soften up the Conservatives for the unfolding local election battle in Barnet this week. Meanwhile, and presuming the Lib Dems don’t come again in Kilburn, what’s next on the council agenda for Thomas Gardiner and Maryam Eslamdoust?


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