All night long

BRING some playing cards. Bring something. Anything to pass the time. It’s going to be a late one. The Press Association has circulated a list of when it expects the different constituencies to ‘declare’ results at next week’s General Election and there must be a nationwide shortage of people who can count as the winners in Holborn and St Pancras and Hampstead and Kilburn are not expected to be announced at Haverstock School until 6am.

Some serious questions need to be asked here: Why should it take that long? With this suggested timescale, whoever wins could be delivering their victory speeches to a room of exhausted, bleary-eyed staff, campaigners and journalists. In those conditions, people can hallucinate and after a night without sleep, will everybody believe what they are seeing…?

The YouTube War: Westminster North

…speaking of Karen Buck and leader’s wives. This little YouTube effort brings the two subjects together. But who did the filming and was their angle to accentuate the height difference between Sarah Brown and the Westminster North candidate? This inspirational little and large effect must have taken some careful working out of all the angles by the director.

Step outside

MAYBE, just maybe there has been a bit too much talk about the leaders’ wives in this general election. Why should whether or not Sarah can gee up Gordon after he’s bad-mouthed a granny or Samantha can successfully dish out curry in a community centre have any bearing on who we vote for?

I mean it’s not as if at ward and constituency level it makes a difference here. Wives, husbands and partners of our local candidates are hardly talked about (..apart from Chris Philp’s wedding photo that has appeared on some of his leaflets, seen that?).

That said: there’s nothing wrong with a bit of public support every now and then from their nearest and dearest and the loving husband of the week award goes to Barrie Taylor, him indoors to Karen Buck, the under threat Labour MP in Westminster North.

At an election event last week, supportive hubby Barrie turned up proud as punch in a ‘Step Outside Posh Boy’, the spoof slogan first seen in The Guardian on April 1… Let’s not condone scrapping or owt, but – Biff! Capow! Thwack! – the twinkle in Barrie’s eye suggests David Cameron (said posh boy) wouldn’t stand much chance if electoral disagreements were resolved by pub fight brawling. Everyone, let’s step back inside.

They will be slugging it out in that constituency, one of London’s most intriguing, right up to polling day.

Boris Johnson and the heckling historian

BORIS Johnson returned to the neighbourhood of his famous coffee house address of January 2010 this morning, urging West Hampstead to push Conservative candidate Chris Philp over the line in Hampstead and Kilburn next week. This time he stopped at the Alice House bar with Philp and Damian Green in West End Lane, the three standing on chairs and taking questions from Conservative party supporters members of the public who Boris knew by name. It was, as it always with Boris, quite a scene.

Adding to the colour of it all was a single heckler, who from behind the bush of photographers, journalists and press aides cupped his hands to his face (see pic above) and piped: ‘Boris.. Boris.. Why are the Conservatives offering tax cuts for millionaires?” The man who didn’t get his question answered is Professor David Cesarani, the respected Jewish historian.

Boris has dealt with a heckle or two, and knows the routine. There is, however, at this stage no hard evidence that he actually employs people in aviator sunglasses to stand around next to his barrackers looking handbag-horrified.

Johnson peered through his fringe and over onto the pavement and then cackled: ‘That’s David Cesarani, that’s a left wing  historian’.

Encouraged by the clatter of laughter, our Mayor of London went on wagging his finger: ‘There is a multi-million left wing historian, a man who has made a forune out of reporting poverty and deprivation of other people without lifting a finger to do anything about it himself… unlike the Conservative Party which has been working flat out.”

Cesarani frowned and then looked a bit non-plussed at the harsh tone of Johnson’s comments. He retreated to the other side of the road. The sad thing was, we never really got an answer to his question…

* You can see Boris getting overexcited about Cesarani’s work here (it comes after Chris Philp’s ‘give us a cheer West Hampstead’ showman introduction, at about  6’56” )

* @whampstead blogs on same event here..

Blair in the marginals

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair was in Harrow today and promises to ‘help out  in marginals’ during the final week of the election campaign. One simple question for this afternoon: Is Glenda Jackson going to let him on her marginal Hampstead turf?

She admits telling him after her re-election in 2005 that she felt the main opposition during the campaign had not been the Tories or the Lib Dems – but him!

Getting plastered

AS nerves begin to jangle in the final week of election campaigning, has Chris Philp entered the nail-biting stage as he wonders whether he has done enough to beat Lib Dem Ed Fordham and Labour’s Glenda Jackson (now 6/1 at Ladbrokes, drifting in a universal mechanical swing after Brown’s ‘bigot’ fuss) in Hampstead and Kilburn?

His thumb looked this morning to have copped the worst of any nibble injuries he may have suffered amid the marginal seat tension.

Tessa and the softies

IT would be great to know how Tessa Jowell phrased it when she told Guardian writer and blogger Dave Hill that Glenda Jackson’s rebelliousness still appealed to voters – and might just get her re-elected yet.

Well Dave,” Tessa might have said. “You know  She’s a bit awkward. A bit snappy. She doesn’t vote in the same way as us cabinet-y figures. That’s why people like her and she can still win.”

But the feeling among people who usually vote Labour in Hampstead (and Kilburn) doesn’t really bear that theory out. Door-knocking in the area this week found there is more irritation with Glenda, possibly self-inflicted, possibly whipped up by opponents, than ever before. Forget policies and ideas, the old you never see her out shopping here because she lives in south London line is beginning to stalk her.

As I reported in the New Journal today, a quantity of ‘old Labour voters’ have been won over by the Lib Dems, the so-called ‘progressive’ vote no longer convinced by Ms Jackson in the same way that Frank Dobson maintains support in the south of Camden.

There is a sense among people who should be celebrating her candidature that she is detached and won’t play the game. She’s right if she thinks press soundbites and photo shoots can be lightweight, below serious debate. But this is the pitch she’s playing on, a pitch where a campaign can collapse on the back of 20 seconds of candid mumbles in the back of a car.

In an online interview, Glenda told Twitter maestro @whampstead this week: “I can only go on what I do and if it isn’t particularly visible, well there’s nothing I can do about that.

Rightly or wrongly, this comes across as pretty bullish, stubborn even, as most Labour party members with even an inkling about press relations know there is something she could actually do about that. Newsdesks are only a phone call away.

Yet back to Jowell, the former Camden councillor, and her comments relayed through Hill’s blog do have some purchase. My personal door knocks survey this weeks seem to match her canvassing in one sense: we both probably agree that the Lib Dems need to turn soft poll gains into real hard votes to finish the job in Hampstead and Kilburn. Hill’s blog reads:

She (Tessa) said that many of those telling canvassers they were thinking of voting Lib Dem were young, not sure they would vote at all and possibly not registered anyway. On the strength of this she insisted that Glenda Jackson and Emily Thornberry (Islington South) would hold on to their seats, helped by their local reputations: Jackson’s for rebelliousness, Thornberry’s for grassroots graft.

Tessa’s argument that sounds like a possible escape hatch for Glenda, who needs one pretty fast now. But what a way that would be to win, eh? Knowing you got re-elected, not because of your strong decisions on tricky politics, but because enough voters who were planning to vote for somebody else hadn’t got registered in time to take part or stayed in to watch Mock The Week instead, or whatever the young folks do these days after work.

Labour thinks rebelliousness can still win back the softies. No doubt Glenda’s voting record, with its occasional stab at her own government, will be revived several times on the doorstep this week in one last throw of the dice.

Whittington: Victory For The People!

Camden New JournalTODAY’S front page of the Camden New Journal is worth the wait, it will have a special place in the archives. It revealed first that Health Secretary Andy Burnham will scrap plans to close down the Whittington Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.

Journalist Tom Foot’s big London scoop means all of the political parties can now be held to to the promise that the service – and the maternity unit – in Archway will not be cut. No wonder after a story like that, a day of protest outside the hospital this morning had a more celebratory mood.

Today’s front page will also be kept somewhere safe so that it can be retrieved if necessary, a weapon against any step towards a broken promise. The most cynical readers, conditioned by the healthy sceptism you find in the pages of all of north London’s newspapers, will of course remark on the timing of this rescue, that Mr Burnham’s call to New Journal HQ came with just a week to go to a General Election.

But isn’t that what elections are about, a chance for us – and not the politicians – to forge the agenda. Every four or five years, we get the chance to make our demands as an electorate. In this case, we believed it was right to join calls to put this immense public service first and through publicity and protest it got to the top of the list. The 5,000 who marched through the streets agreed. On that day, Labour, Tories, Lib Dems and Greens protested together for the common good.

The importance of today’s exclusive is that Mr Burnham’s call to the newsdesk puts the promise on record and only the bravest of future health secretaries, whatever the colour of their rosette, will risk another showdown with the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition and the New Journal/Islington Tribune battle-bus by revisiting the wretched idea of dismantling the A&E.

A line is now marked in the sand. We can now hold the country’s most senior politicians to account and as voters, residents, patients, doctors and journalists we will not let them wriggle away.

Tactical Tories

A FEW Conservatives were a little annoyed at my cheeky suggestion last week that Tory voters in the south of the borough might be seduced by voting Lib Dem in a sort of tactical anti-Frank Dobson vote. The complainants fairly pointed out that they are properly contesting several council wards, like Bloomsbury, for important gains at the Town Hall and all that work will translate into a better show for parliamentary candidate George Lee than previously predicted.

I was actually only teasing about the thought of tactics coming into play…. but running through political anaylyst Renard Sexton’s Comment is Free article at The Guardian today, it seems that others have given the idea more thought. Sexton writes:

In places where the Liberal Democrats have a stronger base to build from, like Somerset North or Bournemouth West, a decisive movement towards the Lib Dem candidate by Labour voters could put it over the top. Similarly, a significant tactical move by Tory voters in Norwich South, Lewisham West and Penge, or Holborn and St Pancras, etc., would bring these in the Lib Dem column.

Sigh. Oh God.

WHATEVER your politics, this exchange off the telly from last night will surely raise a smile? If only for the giant sigh by Jeremy Paxman halfway through and the most desperate of mumbles. You can just about make out the words: ‘Oh God’.

Of course, current affairs programmes like Newsnight shouldn’t be reduced to two men quarreling over what chart they are or are not looking at, or a smug retort like: I think you’ll find London is in England. But let’s not get too pompous… take the phone off the hook, sit back and watch the horns lock tight. In the valleys, Dr Eur.. (his name’s on the caption) will be a hero for this.