In the first of our local election Canvass Returns, James Morris reports from Camden. If you would like to tell other ConservativeHome readers about your doorstep campaigning please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel no need to follow James’ format. Please express yourself in your own way.
While the wider world debates climate change, ending child poverty and solving the problems of Africa the issues coming on the doorstep in the local election campaign here in Regents Park (in the London Borough of Camden) are a little more prosaic but no less important: the state of the common corridors in a council block which haven’t been cleaned for weeks; hypodermic needles littering a local alleyway; the inefficiencies of the Council housing department.
I am standing in the local elections in the London Borough of Camden in the Regents Park ward. It is rock solid Labour ward. It is a ward which encompasses one of the most affluent areas in London – the outercircle of Regents Park where Sven Goran Erikkson lives with Nancy D’Olio and the Arsenal footballer Robert Pires (don’t think either of them are on the electoral register!) and some of the capitals most socially deprived areas in and around the Regents Park Estate. The ward also contains a substantial Bengali community.
This week I’ve been mainly talking to Conservative members in the ward
of which there are a few. They are quite upbeat about the prospects of
the party under Cameron. Two contrasting canvassing experiences
illustrate the social topography of the ward. I meet a Conservative
Party supporter in her eighties who lives in one of the council run
blocks. She has been a Conservative supporter all her life and always
votes. I get lost in the block trying to find her flat and get into
several lifts that don’t work. Sweetly she thanks me for coming to see
her; but really, I say, the thanks are all mine. She says she always
votes and though she can hardly see she will vote for me on May 4th. I
have a momentary flash of optimism and hope.
Over on the other side I am standing outside a palatial residence in
Cumberland Gate waiting for the concierge to let me in. I am met by a
very posh man who takes me into his sumptuously furnished living room
with a spectacular view of Regents Park. He quizzes me as to why I am
standing in the election. I say that it is important for the modern
Conservative Party that there are perceived to be no ‘no go’ areas for
us and that we are seen to be representing the interests of local
people throughout Camden even in areas where are electoral chances are
poor. He nods sagely, pledges me his vote and says, with a sympathetic
look on his face, ‘Well, I suppose someone’s got to to do it!’
I pick up a copy of the Camden New Journal, the most widely read local
paper in the ward and across the borough. Apparently Labour in Camden
have brought in Alistair Campbell to help with their campaign and was a
high profile presence at their manifesto launch. The Evening Standard
runs a story saying that Labour is in meltdown in London. This makes me
nervous as I think that it is dangerous for our prospects to be talked
up so early in the campaign and suspect that Labour is carefully
managing expectations so that anything other than complete meltdown can
be portrayed as some kind of triumph. Perhaps we can see the hand of Mr
Campbell in this.
The electoral reality of the election in Camden is that in order to
deprive Labour of control for the first time since the 1960’s we need
to win the critical wards of Bloomsbury, Highgate, Gospel Oak and to
pick up additional councillors in Hampstead Town. We are working hard
to achieve this.