AND here it is: an electoral first, Camden’s mobile home/Portakabin/burger van polling station. Someone else sent me this photo, taken from the public realm etc It might look a little like Bully’s star prize, but at least the kids at Beckford got a day at school. Boo say the pupils, yay say the parents.
Meanwhile, Labour continue to hawk Flick Rea, the last Liberal Democrat standing after the 2014 avalanche. This is not simply to GET FLICK, but the sitting Labour councillors do not automatically get returned if she does survive. It would be two from three, with no guarantee about who would be the odd man/woman out. The Labour campaign HQ is Councillor Richard Olszewski’s house, easy to spot due to the EU flag on the roof. His daughter Kasia pounds the street with Labour councillor Lorna Russell.
The Lib Dems say their vote is holding up. Who wins?
Two hours to go.
A SHORT walk up to the Sheriff Centre and the tellers are still there in the evening sun. Nice. There’s also about 15 guys in Labour stickers standing around a car.
Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems also have tellers at West Hampstead Library, suggesting the opposition parties sniff an opportunity against a completely new slate of Labour candidates. The queues are forming, it’s getting busy, the after work crowd want to vote.
PRETTY quiet on the north western front, where again we find a ward where residents sometimes feel they could do with a little bit more love and attention from Judd Street. Not much action at the Kingsgate Community Centre.
SURPRISING how slow it is through the turnstiles at Swiss Cottage, as this is another hot ward. Labour are going to be disappointed if they do not at least take one seat here, although there are worries that a slow start to the day is somehow linked to people deciding not to vote at all, possibly due to Labour’s difficulties on anti-Semitism.
It’s one of the wards where the contrast between interest now and 2014 is quite striking. Labour did quite well here four years ago without putting much effort in. There was no teller on the polling station when I was at Swiss Cottage Library then. Today, Labour sit side by side with the Conservatives. Same in Fairhazel Gardens. It’s a cliché, but getting out the vote is the key here both for the sitting Tories and the Labour candidates hustling down their necks.
The left-wing of the Labour party are particularly interested in seeing the candidates elected here. One of them is Simon Pearson, spotted here cycling around, trying to make sure people cast their votes.
FORTUNE Green to come but some news on the historic first use of a Portakabin polling station near Beckford School. A punter has phoned to say simply this: “It was like being on Brighton beach and heading towards what looked like a burger bar. It is totally unacceptable. There was very little privacy. This cannot be allowed to happen again. I was actually very reluctant to cast my vote.” Don’t be rude about Brighton folks…
HERE’S an interesting one: you can’t walk down England’s Lane without passing people in rosettes, and as the result here is up in the air – they all look far more nervous than the people in the south of the borough. Luisa Porritt has emerged as a great hope for the Lib Dems in Camden; if she does not get elected today, she looks like she is a long haul campaigner and one to watch. Her colleague Tom Simon, better known in the ward due to his previous stint on the council, is the most likely to break through if the party has success here today.
If the Conservatives hold their ground here, and keep Hampstead and Frognal, then it would not be the worse result in the world given all the wipeout hype. They would also benefit from having Kirsty Roberts back in the council chamber. She popped up, looking frantic with a clipboard and rosette, her nerves calmed by a chance meeting with Claire-Louise Leyland, the former Conservative Party leader who is among the escapees at this election. Looking happier than ever, she’s getting married in August.
Walk on, and here’s Nigel Rumble as well, the independent candidate. He says he is realistic about his chances and is looking to do better than his 200 votes last time.
Labour are expected to use its membership to flood the ward in the final hours. This is one of the key wards to watch oit for.
THE Conservatives are pretty confident that Hampstead Town will return all three councillors today, despite the efforts of former Lib Dem councillor Linda Chung and the enthusiasm of Labour’s octochamp James Slater. They may be running out of time to shift all of their election literature, however. Boxes and boxes of those gimmick scratchcards detailing Labour’s ‘broken promises’ remain in their Heath Hurst Road HQ undelivered, the perfect souvenirs of the famous Camden Council elections of 2018. They will be big on eBay in 20 years time. They’ll be a flashback blog ever sooner.
Maria Higson would be the new face on the council here if the Conservatives do hold all three.
HAVING asked Jill Fraser why she isn’t standing in Gospel Oak where the Lib Dems seemed to have put in a fair bit of effort and will be heading for a decent second place, the next stop was a little surprising. No Lib Dem teller at the Queen’s Crescent Community Centre. Just Labour councillor Larraine Revah was there taking the numbers.
IT was quiet in Haverstock too, with more mutterings of a low turnout again. The sun will bring the voters out I was assured at one of the polling stations. Up the road, market traders at Queen’s Crescent Market, all of whom will tell you that trade is not what it used to be, were hoping for a similar late afternoon rush, but were less sure of it arriving. Looking out in the less-than-bustling market, Liberal Democrat candidate Jill Fraser, a former mayor of Camden, was sandwiching in her day job into polling day duties: three hours in the fish and chip shop which she has often joked is like an unofficial surgery. It seemed strange, I told her, that she was not standing in Gospel Oak where the Lib Dem challenge seem more likely than Haverstock. ‘This is my home ward’, she replied, ‘and I wouldn’t want to stand anywhere else’. Sound, but in this particularly ward such sentiment is unlikely to provide a route back to the Town Hall.
She serves another cone of chips and explains she is angry Labour still won’t share the mayoralty despite the fact the Lib Dems did when in power. Labour probably shouldn’t have accepted the invitation to allow Nural Islam to be the mayor back in 2008 if they didn’t want to share back.
IN Cantelowes, the Liberal Democrats are also doing a bit of telling on the door, even if it is an uphill climb to unseat Labour here. Here is a ward where we could have a new face, if Labour’s Ranjit Singh is elected. Their rivals have been reminding voters here at every opportunity that he voted to Leave in the EU referendum. It will be interesting to compare his votes with Labour remainers Danny Beales and Angela Mason later, to see if voting for Brexit really is a vote killer. Catherine Hays is the main Lib Dem chasing them home.
Meanwhile, reports of an “enjoyable lunch”. The outgoing Phil Jones dines with Paul Braithwaite for their eight-yearly catch-up. Mr Braithwaite, the former Lib Dem councillor who left the party because as it happens he also voted to leave Europe, has run his own leaflet letter advocating residents in the patch side with Ms Hays over Mr Singh.
Some more controversial wards after lunch.
ST PANCRAS AND SOMERS TOWN
LONELY Labour teller in St Pancras and Somers Town too. The late Peter Brayshaw is still on the noticeboard heading into Godwin and Crowndale estate polling station. More chit chat about low turnouts “despite the sun”.
Is the polling station within 50 metres of Keir Starmer’s Labour office? Voters heading north to the estate hall have to walk past the MP’s face before they get to their ballot papers.
ANOTHER ward which looks safe for Labour but still has a dedicated polling day operation. Nash Ali and Nadia Shah – first time I’ve ever seen Nadia in flats – were out in Munster Square. Trying not to sound overconfident, their worries are the independent candidate Steven Christofi, a former Labour Party member who has campaigned against HS2, and confusion among where and when to vote among tenants who have been relocated due to HS2. If they were that concerned, however, they would not be sending local campaigners to Hendon later.
LABOUR candidates have been told to work their own wards first, before joining the operations in more contested wards later in the day. It’s a lonely time for Labour tellers at the polling stations, however. All alone. The talk here is of an apparent low turnout for the first half of the day. You have to go back to 2006 and art gallery owner Rebecca Hossack, a bit of a local celebrity in these parts, to find the last Conservative winner here.
II stopped at the Drill Hall polling station in 2014 and it was a similar story. Dean Williams was the Labour teller, the former chair of the Holborn and Covent Garden branch, that day. He sadly passed last year, and the last I heard they were going to put a bench for him in Red Lion Square.
HOLBORN AND COVENT GARDEN
IN 2014, I was moaned at for not getting down to the deep south on the election day tour. At the hustings organised by Holborn Voice, there was a real sense that this is a corner of the borough where residents do feel a little cut off from the rest of Camden, in terms of the council debate at least.
The campaign for a new school south of the Euston Road, still not satisfied, perhaps sums it up. When UCL was ready to sponsor an academy school, it was directed to Swiss Cottage rather than somewhere closer to home.
At those hustings, the host Stephen Hargrave said: “If you look at the shape of Camden, it’s shaped rather like an elephant’s head. We are that funny squashy, rubbery thing at the bottom. That sucks all the water up and squirts into the great mouth, which is where Camden Town would be.” He also suggested living in this ward was the “best way to be ignored”.
Despite the apparent foregone conclusion of this ward, however, the Labour team is beavering away on polling day. They are the only tellers at polling stations and, yes, enjoying a stop at the newly named Dobson Court.