37 days to go
ONE day you are being mocked across social media for tweeting about watching the rugby world cup final while wearing sketchy socks and staring away from the TV, the next you’re the new Speaker in the House of Commons. Sir Lindsay Hoyle came through endless rounds of voting yesterday to be confirmed as John Bercow’s successor.
You can’t help thinking there was a little silent fist pump at some stage during the process from Tulip Siddiq, namely when Dame Eleanor Laing failed to get enough support to progress to the final run-off. I’m not saying Ms Siddiq holds a grudge – although there are those rumours from elections past of a ‘purple book’ where she is said to note down the names of lazy local Labour figures who did not help out in the tight elections seen in Hampstead and Kilburn. Dame Eleanor, however, was deputising for Mr Bercow in the chair when she reportedly accused Ms Siddiq of “playing the pregnancy card” and “bringing down the whole of womankind”.
Ms Siddiq, while seven months pregnant, was being scolded for leaving a three hour debate to get food. Below is her explanation to ITV back in 2016.
So it’s unlikely Dame Eleanor got a vote from Ms Siddiq yesterday and, in the end, it was Labour MP Chris Bryant who went on to finish in second place. Mr Bryant was once the Labour party agent in Holborn and St Pancras down in their old offices in Camden Road and wrote a warm, some might say a little greasy, biography of Glenda Jackson, covering her move from acting into Camden politics. His manifesto for the role included a suggestion that clapping was banned in the chamber.
WE WANT CUDDLES
ALTHOUGH effusive, there is a segment in Mr Bryant’s book on Glenda Jackson which mentions the apparent frostiness which not a small amount of people (and a lot of journalists in the pub) noted during her time in politics. Describing the 1992 general election – her first win in the old Hampstead and Highgate seat, beating Oliver Lewtwin – he wrote: “Some people complained that Glenda was not ‘cuddly’ enough, that she never thanked her campaign team for anything, that she was mean with money. The vast press entourage that attemped to follow Glenda around was also putting off ordinary voters, so Glenda not only acquired a minder, Simon MacDonald, but the media was deliberately sent on wild goose chases to give Glenda a chance to meet the public unencumbered.”
DURING his service as deputy speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle was caught a little off guard by Tulip Siddiq in 2017 when she complained – jokingly, I think – that Jacob Rees-Mogg had described the opposition as “pygmy” during a fund-raising dinner in Hampstead. She is the shortest MP in the House of Commons, she told the chamber.
Back then, Mr Rees-Mogg had been telling members in Hampstead and Kilburn that there was no better time to be a Tory, also including a cheap joke about forgetting the name of the Liberal Democrats, “who used to be important”. Enthusiasm was bubbling because the local association believed boundary changes would put Ms Siddiq at risk of losing her seat. The constant calling of elections means that new political map was never drawn and Ms Siddiq, for the moment, is still in pole position.
HUSTINGS? WHAT HUSTINGS
IN 2015, the Hampstead and Kilburn candidates must have been close to appearing at 50 hustings together; a fairly repetitive game sometimes played out in front of audiences stacked only with their own campaigners. One of the better ones was organised by the now retired West Hampstead Life blog, but some others were only attended by a handful of people.
After that marathon schedule, you can can understand the wariness of the Labour MPs to spend the evenings of this campaign repeating such events, even if it would be a warmer option than knocking on doors in the November rain. There are few votes to gain.
That all said, the New Journal would be happy to host hustings if the wider interest is there (and somebody out there has a good idea for a cheap or, better still, free venue – do it for democracy). Whether the candidates are game, I’m not sure, but it would be a shame if they didn’t all face the public for a debate at least once before polling day.
BREAKFAST WITH KEIR
HOLBORN and St Pancras candidate Keir Starmer said at his campaign launch on Saturday that this election has to be about more than Brexit, but the national media only have one game for him. They want him to say ‘I’m a remainer’ as many times as they can force him to over the next 37 days. Usually quite patient, there was a trace of irritation on GMB this morning as he was interrupted with that question again and again.
Video grab is from Guido
DEFINING ‘HARD LEFT’
LABOUR’S opponents are back casting Jeremy Corbyn (and his supporters) as Stalinist and Marxist, and the one that comes up the most… ‘hard left’. Most Labour members, however, did not regard the 2017 manifesto as ‘hard left’, including some of those who do not necessarily see Mr Corbyn as their first choice to lead the party. There is a feeling that anybody who thinks, say, renationalising the rails might be a good idea is instantly regarded as a hard left Maoist.
So I’ve been asking what people mean when they say ‘hard left’ in relation to Mr Corbyn and his party. At his own party’s conference in Bournemouth, Matt Sanders, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn, told me why he’s used that label: “I think his approach to international affairs is really worrying, upsetting the rules-based order and leaving NATO, and being willing to trust Russian secret services over British secret services. I find that quite chilling actually.”
He added: “If you’ve got a an internationalist outlook on the world, then Jeremy Corbyn does not represent your views. He is not internationalist, he is anti-West closed-to-the-world, not open-to-the-world, person.”