Two days to go
OOF, no updates here since April 11 but at least the CNJ turned up to the hustings. Perhaps the quality of these elections could be summed up at the hustings in Bloomsbury last week when Labour were the only party that turned up.
As if to underline where we are at, a Liberal Democrat candidate later revealed himself to be in the audience but said he lacked the confidence to sit on the panel.
I was talking to one Labour councillor last week and they understandably suggested I was disappointed that there was a lack of ‘drama’ in these elections.
After covering the pretty astonishing change of power in Camden in 2006 and then the Labour fightback in 2010, plus one of the most marginal three-way parliamentary seat battles you could imagine, also in 2010… a set of locals where the overall result is already known is always going to be a little bit tame for anybody whose job is to tell its story.
Maybe that’s par for the course in most of North London where Labour has nearly always won and held a large majority, but I’d switch the word drama to debate.
Every four years, these council elections should be a debate about what kind of place Camden has been – and more importantly can be. How the council can intervene where it is needed, and step away where it’s not.
That’s not possible if the other parties only take an interest in four or five wards. The way the system works, Labour could get a bigger vote share and end up with fewer seats, but even so – this campaign is no test for all of the new faces about to take their seats in the chamber.
So they may be good, or they may be terrible – we will have to find out after the votes are cast.
For at this election we have seen an absence of the usual manifesto launches and election set pieces, the Greens only mustering 12 candidates, opponents allowing Labour candidates pretty much free rein of the often combative CNJ letters page because they didn’t have ten minutes to write and email their own offer to voters and a call from some Labour contenders, unsurprisingly, to make it a debate about the national circus.
In response to the claim by Tory Marx de Morais that the poll in South Hampstead is a ‘referendum on the 02 Centre’, Labour’s Nina de Ayala Parker tweeted: “No…its a referendum on Tory leadership, and whether residents will accept the government’s law breaks, and want to be represented by people who condone their illegal actions, partying while people died, and horrific immigration policies.”
Of course, the council elections shouldn’t be a referendum on either – but in the wards where Labour is facing a test, this is a familiar message. Keir Starmer sent a bulletin to voters in Highgate last week in a bid to dissuade them from sharing their votes around with the Greens, as so often happens in that ward, by urging them to allow him to send a message to Boris Johnson.
I’m guessing the PM won’t reconsider his position based on whether Labour can unseat Sian Berry and stop any more Greens getting onto a council which will be heavily dominated by Georgia Gould’s ranks whatever happens, but that’s the nature of the debate in the small number of spots where things are a little tight: i.e saying Boris Johnson’s name and shouting boo to anybody considering what other options there might be.
Anybody in Labour’s position would probably do the same, as while none of them have spoken out against the Prime Minister (even though plenty of Tory MPs seem to be able to), the Conservative candidates in areas of Camden where they are putting in the work can’t be thanking Johnson and some of his parliamentary candidates for the headlines they are generating in the final run-up to Thursday.
This morning, he appeared on GMB and was asked how his government can help an elderly widow spending all day on buses to keep warm. He drifted off into a memory about how he had helped give pensioners free travel…