Nick Clegg’s former special adviser runs for Hampstead and Kilburn selection

FORMER Liberal Democrat councillor Matt Sanders is back on the scene. If you were watching Victoria Derbyshire earlier you will have seen him reminiscing about his time serving as a special adviser to Nick Clegg during the coalition government years. The thrust was: I shared an office with Dominic Cummings once and he’s a bit manic.

Back to home affairs, and Mr Sanders has emerged in a more crowded than normal field of potential Liberal Democrat candidates for the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency. The party is pushing ahead with the selection process this week, amid the ongoing uncertainty over whether we are to have a general election or not.

He will not be able to sail into the role, not least because, while you, me, and other council spotters, remember the baby-faced Mr Sanders gulping as he won a by-election victory in Haverstock back in 2007 and his active role at the Town Hall afterwards, lots of the new members were still in school when all that was going on.

Then there’s that competitive field: confident performer Kirsty Allan, also with links to the coalition government having worked for Lynne Featherstone, has applied to stand again after taking on Labour’s Tulip Siddiq at the 2017 election.

Also in the frame are Kushal Bhimjiani who stood in Swiss Cottage and is held in high regard within the party – apparently some of the words on this blog have been reheated for her campaign literature – and the enthusiastic Bradley Hillier-Smith.

Many had expected Luisa Porritt, who has won both of the two elections she has stood in over the last two years, to be an obvious choice due to her prominent role in the local revival, but party rules say it’s a no-go now she is an MEP.

It was not always this tough to win a Lib Dem selection contest in Camden in the past but those European election results have changed the mood. It could be fun to knock on doors again for them. Could those Labour voters who felt little shame in lending their votes to the Lib Dems, Alastair Campbell-style, in May be convinced to do so again? That’s a big question but a queue of contenders clearly want to ask it.

The kicker: While the Remain-heavy nature of the borough may seem like fertile ground, it’s not actually so easy to score points over Ms Siddiq on Europe, who broke the Labour whip and voted against triggering Article 50 in the first place and campaigns not to leave with a deal but to tear up Brexit altogether.

So if the battle to stop Brexit is still in play when an election does come, if it comes, when it comes, chasing down an MP with a 15k majority, and who is just as equivocal about preventing the divorce from the EU as they are, might not seem like sensible spending back at central office. Taking on Brexit-supporting MPs may seem more of a priority for the national party.

Whether this borough becomes one to target or one to politely class as ‘going forward’ for the Lib Dems, does not dent the evident local enthusiasm, however. At the Camden Defends Democracy rally in Russell Square on Saturday more than strains of their  favourite war cry ‘bollocks to Brexit’ could still be heard. All four of those mentioned  as possible candidates above were in the chorus.

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