The northwest London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn was the tightest three-way marginal seat in the 2010 general election. Given the fact that the 2015 campaign is so closely-fought with none of the parties enjoying a clear path to outright victory, this should – on paper – be a fascinating local campaign to watch as general election 2015 approaches and Labour (minus current incumbent Glenda Jackson MP) attempts to hold and increase their wafer-thin majority of 44 votes.
But by and large, both the sense of anticipation and the bad tempered name calling or “low skulduggery” of the national campaign are entirely absent here. Local journalist Richard Osley attributes this to a form of “Stockholm syndrome” among the candidates, who have now appeared on stage together so many times that to begin tearing chunks out of each other a la Cameron and Miliband would somehow feel unseemly, and acutely embarrassing.
Says Osley, in a report from a previous hustings in the constituency:
The fact each candidate knows they have another set of evening dates ahead of them in the next month, events at which they will have to share tables together and say hello and goodbye nicely, means they have become all very pleasant to each other. It’s as if they don’t want to bring the big weapons out, because they know the person they are bazookering will be sat next to them again 24 hours later.
Last Wednesday saw the candidates participate in hustings organised by the local West Hampstead Life blog. I attended to watch and conduct interviews, and was struck by the quality of the local candidates (ideology aside, all have the potential to be good constituency MPs) but also the differing degrees to which the candidates were willing to deviate from their approved national party talking points.
The overall effect is one of a constituency expecting a Labour hold, but with all candidates willing to criticise the compromises and trade-offs of the current coalition government, and in some cases (particularly Simon Marcus, the Conservative challenger) quite happy to jettison fairly central policies and beliefs in pursuit of a more liberal but less overtly tribal local vote.
My interviews with the candidates, and thoughts on their respective campaigns, are shown below.
When asked to name the current coalition government’s finest accomplishment, Conservative Party candidate Simon Marcus said “changing lives”, making reference to the economic recovery and welfare changes which Conservatives say have increased opportunities and life chances for many people.
The subject of welfare reform evinced some real passion; Marcus spoke about people who had been out of work for months and years finally receiving the counselling they need from Job Centre staff – “they’re in the business of turning lives around”.
On the NHS, Simon Marcus insisted that a state owned and operated healthcare service is still sustainable and financially viable in the twenty-first century: “There’s no question whatsoever, but you have to make efficiencies”. Marcus said that “free at the point of use is here to stay”, and spoke of his commitment to the NHS – “my children were born on the NHS, my dad was an NHS doctor – it’s in my blood”.
Simon Marcus also drew attention for opposing several key elements of government policy – he stated his firm opposition to the bedroom tax, but also to the renewal of Trident, the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.
Click here for interviews with each of the 2015 candidates standing for election in Hampstead and Kilburn, and a summary of the recent hustings organised by West Hampstead Life.
When the votes of the 2010 general election were counted in the northwest London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn, veteran Labour MP Glenda Jackson clung on to her seat in the face of a strong Conservative challenge by the narrowest of margins – a mere 44 votes. The fact that the Liberal Democrats were a only 800 votes further behind makes this blogger’s home constituency the tightest three-way marginal in the country.
Based on the 2010 results, with Labour 44 votes ahead of the Tories and the Conservative-LibDem coalition none too popular among many voters, the Labour Party could reasonably expect to hold this seat in May 2015. But these are not normal times, and the various national dynamics at play will keep this constituency an interesting one to watch.
The excellent local West Hampstead blog, West Hampstead Life, is organising candidate hustings to take place in the constituency at the Sheriff Centre on West End Lane tonight at 7.30pm. Your blogger will be present, and hopes to sneak a couple of minutes with each candidate to question them on national issues and their personal philosophies.
The parliamentary candidates for the constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn are as follows:
Labour – Tulip Siddiq
Conservative – Simon Marcus
Liberal Democrat – Maajid Nawaz
UKIP – Magnus Nielsen
Green Party – Rebecca Johnson
This blog will live-tweet the hustings @SamHooper, and publish a summary shortly after the event.