Election daily: To Milton Keynes and back

40 days to go….


KEIR Starmer had a breathless Saturday, racing to Milton Keynes to meet the Labour candidates there, before racing back to Belsize for more photos and canvassing closer to home. As usual there were the customary great turnout photos outside the tube station as members from other parts of Camden arrived to help. Labour, as we know, sniff the chance to oust the Conservatives in Belsize on May 3.

It’s worth remembering that bookmakers are not even taking bets on Camden losing overall control of the council, so you could say what happens in Belsize will have no real effect on Labour’s power here, unless the ambition is to razor the opposition back to oblivion (or in less dramatic terms, so they do not even qualify for a chair of a scrutiny committee).

Overall victory is also albeit assured in Islington. Maybe that’s why council leader Richard Watts and Islington South MP Emily Thornberry were in Barnet (slightly easier to get to than Milton Keynes) today, where the actual overall control of the council is at stake. As much as Camden members talk earnestly about the dangers of a one party state emerging here, it appeared Belsize Park was more important to them than Barnet today. They’d love a wipeout really.


MEANWHILE, the Conservatives had their flag up in their favourite territory: the forecourt outside Waitrose in Swiss Cottage. Joining them was Orpington MP Jo Johnson, Boris’ bro. I have a vision of Jo Johnson leaving his house in Camden Town this morning for the short trip up to the Finchley Road and bumping into one of his near neighbours on the way out. Labour council leader Georgia Gould, you see, lives a few doors down. ‘Off anywhere nice, Jo?’. ‘Oh, hi Georgia, um, sort of.’


TALKING of Goody-Goody Gouldy, as just a couple of her friends/colleagues referred to her this week after she proudly explained to the press that she had never been near a reefer. As we come to the end of the four year administration, her hospitality register is tidy. Even a £5 teddy bear, an ugly little thing with Queen’s Park Rangers branding, has been added to the lists of gifts she has received in her work as a councillor. Fully declared and up to date, we know the gifters of this lower league stuffed toy were the Centre for Public Impact.

Similarly priced, Cllr Gould has also dutifully recorded each low cost, £5 dinner laid on for the councillors who toured Bangladesh as part of Camden delegation last January. But have all of her colleagues who were on the trip been so diligent? Easy access to the gift declarations of departing councillors is expected to be removed from the council’s website in the aftermath of the elections.


COMMUNICATIONS officers around London will be on the sauce on Monday evening, celebrating the start of pre-election purdah. That’s 37 days of saying: ‘Sorry, can’t answer that. Purdah!’. OK, it’s not quite as extreme as that, but the Town Hall is prevented from making big spending announcements once this period kicks in. Maybe this explains why there were investment press releases sent out last week, announcing a £1.6 million ‘community impact pledge’ to tackle rough sleeping and a £1.5 million plan to upgrade the Talacre Sports Centre. Just in time.


FORMER councillor Chris ‘Knighty’ Knight supplies a v-for-victory in the hall at Haverstock School. Back in 2010, residents voted for both council and parliamentary candidates. Knighty, a councillor in Hampstead, thought Chris Philp may have done enough to unseat Glenda Jackson when his fingers went up, but the Tories ended up 42 votes short.


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