Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Leafleting, Part 2

This Saturday gone I was in Kentish Town (train station above)for a few hours, leafleting for the Greens as there is a bye-election on October 30th. I seem to make people laugh when I say why it's occurring, so here's the story...

By-election triggered by councillor’s ‘foolish and naïve’ actions
Paul Keilthy, Camden New Journal 18 September 2008

THE revelation that a councillor was attempting to serve his Kentish Town constituency from Tucson, Arizona, has forced his resignation, hasty explanations from his Lib Dem bosses and an October by-election.

Ex-councillor Philip Thompson (above) announced his resignation on Thursday, 12 hours after the New Journal reported his intention to serve Kentish Town by email during a three-year post graduate course at the University of Arizona.

Camden chief executive Moira Gibb received his letter of resignation on Tuesday, triggering a by-election before October 25 under Town Hall rules.

Opposition councillors claimed Mr Thompson and his bosses had made an abrupt U-turn.
Labour leader Councillor Anna Stewart said: “Whether he would have resigned had there not been such public outrage over the idea of a long-distance, by-email councillor is questionable.

“He has been guilty of being naïve and foolish – but questions should have been put to him by the leadership of his party. They only appeared to backtrack when it became clear what the public reaction was.”

Before the story broke both Mr Thompson and his Lib Dem whip, councillor Russel Eagling, had told the New Journal that Thompson was still representing Kentish Town voters from the US state.

The Lib Dems appeared to be enabling him to continue in his post by removing him from the licensing committee but leaving him in place on others.

The 26-year-old would have remained eligible for his councillors’ annual allowance of £9,303, provided he attended just two council meetings per year.

But this week Mr Thompson’s former boss, Lib Dem leader Keith Moffitt, said the episode had been a “coincidence in timing”, with the story breaking as then-councillor Thompson was exploring his options in the Tucson university before realising he could not stay in post.

Cllr Moffitt also denied opposition claims that his party had known of the Arizona move but had hoped to defer a by-election in the delicately balanced Kentish Town seat.

Defending his former councillor, he said: “[Philip] never had the idea that he could be a full-time councillor if his studies required him to be permanently in the US.”
Mr Thompson won Kentish Town from Labour in 2006 on the back of active campaigning to save Kentish Town baths, in Prince of Wales Road.

It looks like being a tight battle with I guess a fair few people who voted for Mr. Thompson feeling somewhat let down, which cannot help the Lib Dems. It looks like being a battle between the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour (all three had stalls along the main drag Saturday morning) so I hope to get the train again to Kentish Town in the last few days of the campaign. More info about the Green campaign and the Green candidate Victoria Green, is available here.

Whatever the result of October 30th, I have started to think seriously about the next General Election, and the local campaign(s) around here. There is going to be a rather dramatic redrawing of the electoral map from last time around. Hampstead & Highgate is going to be broken up, with some wards in the east joining Holborn to make Holborn & St. Pancras, while the rest becomes Highgate and Kilburn, with three wards from Brent East, where I used to live. In a way I'm quite pleased, as it will mean that come next General Election, it will all be happening in my NW6 backyard. I don't mind heading out east to Kentish Town, Highgate, Archway etc to help out, but I feel a bit of a political commuter.

Anyway, without any further ado, and with a hat-tip to the local Conservative Party website, this is my new constituency:

For those of you not into maps, the wards from Camden are: Belsize; Fortune Green; Frognal and Fitzjohns; Hampstead Town; Kilburn; Swiss Cottage; and West Hampstead. The wards from Brent East are: Brondesbury Park; Kilburn (SNAP!!); and Queen's Park.

Now that the economic crisis appears to have stopped plots to depose Gordon Brown for the foreseeable future, it looks like it could well be a year, if not longer, until we have a General Election. I would think it would be good for the Greens to treat next June's European Elections as a trial run for the Big One, without bankrupting themselves in the process! GB may hold onto the last minute ie May 2010, when it would coincide with London's borough elections. It is hard, especially in an area like Hampstead & Kilburn, where all three main parties have a considerable electoral presence, to say what will happen at the next General Election. However, for those who wish to know a bit more about how things might go, the following articles from the New Camden Journal may be of interest:

An examination of Camden's Greens;

What a national poll of marginal constituencies suggests would happen in Hampstead and Kilburn if a General Election was held tomorrow;

The recent council bye-election in Hampstead Town, which the Lib Dems won; &

More evidence that the whole 'Respect' project is in its death throws.

Seeing that they have being paper selling on Kilburn High Road on Saturdays and been organising meetings (if the posters are anything to go by) in Kilburn this year, I think you have more chance of a Workers' Revolutionary Party (Newsline faction) candidate standing in Hampstead & Kilburn next General Election than any sort of SWP-backed front organisation (Left Luggage...Left List...Left Alternative seems to have gone into the same part of the SWP's deep freeze as the Anti-Nazi League). Indeed I think that ultimate 1980s throwback "Vote Labour, But Build A Fighting Socialist Alternative" could well make the front-page of Socialist Worker's "General Election Special" (without being "Special") next time around.


Anonymous said...

For the Greens the European elections are not a 'trial run' for the General Election they are are at least as important and probably far more important. As you know the European elections use PR and the Greens are defending 2 seats and hope to gain more whereas the chances of gaining a single seat at the General Election are possible but not definite by any means. It would be a greater disaster for the Greens to do worse at the European Elections than not gain a seat at Westminster.

Jim Jay said...

I think the Greens have a good chance with this one - we came second last time and with the Lib Dems in difficulty there is a good chance we can win our first councillor in the ward (to join other councillors on the council)

I'm hoping to get up there again before the 30th because, as you say, I think it may well be tight.