Long time, no post… a little catch up
THE Observer provided the widest newspaper coverage of the pro-EU march in London last week. A “Camden For Europe” poster made its front page, ‘thronging’ London.
Inside, the last word was given to Ed de Mesquita, described by the paper as a “Tory remainer who said he could hardly read the Telegraph any more”, but better known in Hampstead as the man behind the famous crêpe stall in Hampstead High Street.
“It’s not going to be OK,” Mr De Mesquita, a former Tory council election candidate, warned on Britain’s divorce from Europe.
LABOUR members in Hampstead and Kilburn reconvened for the first time since the flare-up over whether or not a minute’s silence for Tessa Jowell had been properly observed last week. A disagreement/robust debate over whether to support expelled member Marc Wadsworth apparently ensued, before a motion was passed calling for his reinstatement. Mr Wadsworth is accused of bringing the party into disrepute after a confrontation with MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch of the party’s inquiry into anti-semitism.
AT the same Labour Party meeting in Kingsgate Community Centre, left-wingers celebrated the majority of their ‘slate’ being backed ahead of NEC elections and as delegates for the party’s annual conference in the autumn. Hampstead and Kilburn will be sending 10 members with voting rights. It’s a significant move because party rules are expected to be on the table in Liverpool. One possible rule change could give entire local memberships a vote on who should be their council group leader, a ballot currently reserved for elected councillors.
YOU will probably have seen how Rebecca Shirazi’s defence of the Hampstead and Kilburn branch in the CNJ’s letters page sparked quite a reaction. It got personal when her lefty credentials were attacked because she went to a private school in Herefordshire. Even some of the less Corbyn-enthused members and councillors thought this was a bit of a low blow and there is a debate over who it reflected worse on: Ms Shirazi or the letter’s writer.
As an aside, what always surprises me a little about people who say ‘she writes so often, you might as well give her a column’ is the lack of effort they put into writing their own. It’s easier to tweet pithy responses, I guess.
Anyway, while some members are clearly angered by Ms Shirazi’s outspokenness and are even querying whether she has broken rules by trying to identify her critics on the electoral roll and membership lists, it was BFFs forever with council leader Georgia Gould on Saturday as they joined the local Labour delegation on the NHS march.
ONE of the targets of Ms Shirazi’s letters to the CNJ has been the Conservative Party’s lack of diversity after returning six men and one woman at May’s local elections. The Tories thought it was a cheap shot, having seen two black councillors – one by a handful of votes – lose their seats. The women who were not elected are not disappearing into the distance. Kirsty Roberts, who missed out in Belsize, and Kate Fairhurst, defeated in Swiss Cottage, appear to be in it for the long haul after winning important roles locally. Ms Roberts is now chair of the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency and Ms Fairhurst is her deputy. An all-woman executive, is completed by president Judith Barnes and membership chair Amanda Eliades.
TOWN Hall escapee Siobhan Baillie, who stepped down as a councillor last month, spent many years of her legal career on divorces. The experience has not deterred her. She married Kristian Tiggle last week. “Still grinning,” she tweeted. Congrats to the happy couple.
THE hottest ticket in town last month? It had to be Ed Sheeran playing an intimate fundraiser at the London Irish Centre. Camden’s culture chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson confessed on Facebook after his invite came through that he couldn’t be called a fan of the singer: “I feel a little guilty saying I’ll go as I’m sure there are other massive fans, but it’ll [be] the chance to see him play a big pub.” The guilt pangs seemed to have subsided by the night of the gig when Cllr Simpson proudly posted pictures showing how close he was to the “Shape Of You” singer and him wearing an Ed Sheeran cap.
NEW Conservative councillor Henry Newman – the man off the telly – may be badged as one of the party’s ‘Brexit boys’ by Labour rivals, but the French embassy told us a few weeks back he is among a group of rising stars whose “energy and new ideas are helping to enrich the bilateral relationship” with France.
On that occasion he had joined a delegation of ‘Franco-British Young Leaders’ meeting foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, but last month he went up another notch and met French president Emmanuel Macron himself. A little different from a picture with an overflowing bin, Mr Newman joined his friend, Labour MP Wes Streeting, in an Elysee Palace selfie.
KILBURN councillor Thomas Gardiner’s phone will have rung red hot a few weeks back amid speculation that he had acquired a key job in the Labour Party’s ‘compliance’ unit, which deals with the not uncontroversial fields of discipline, suspensions and expulsions. He even got a mention in Private Eye as everybody tried to work out where he fits in the set-up. The Labour Party insists it does not comment on internal staffing matters, so getting to the bottom of who has what job in the department is easier said than done, but Cllr Gardiner’s friends say he is the victim of hostile briefings by rogue insiders. That sounds like a job for compliance when they find out who they are.
A WISE head in Camden’s Labour elections team once told me they always avoided having photos with clear-as-day white placards because they were so easy for people to manipulate. This was partly based on those David Cameron election posters which were switched around with new messages. Camden press office does not share such worries, tweeting out environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison with a pristine policy board. Fortunately, there are no rogue elements in the borough ready with the photoshop.
HAMISH Hunter, the former Conservative candidate in Hampstead, says he will make an official complaint about the way he says he was forced off the ballot paper by his own party. It’s not quite clear how far this has progressed as local organisers say they have not been informed of any case. But Mr Hunter, who opened up about his battle with depression, said “I won’t let how I was treated pass unchallenged.”