CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Greens to hold talks with Labour over Hampstead and Kilburn seat

Tulip Siddiq says Labour should not stand against Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion

04 May, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Green election candidates: John Mansook with Councillor Sian Berry

THE Green Party is potentially open to standing aside in the marginal Hampstead and Kilburn election battleground after offering talks to under-siege Labour candidate Tulip Siddiq.

John Mansook, chairman of the Greens in neighbouring Brent, was officially chosen as the party’s candidate at a meeting on Saturday but members agreed to “talk to the other parties” about potentially withdrawing from the ballot in a measure aimed at trying to prevent a Tory victory.

Ms Siddiq, who is looking to defend the constituency for Labour from a majority of just 1,138, will meet local Green members in the next few days to explain her position on a series of issues, the New Journal understands.

It is understood that her vote in the House of Commons against fracking, her belief in electoral reform and a vote against Brexit will chime with many of them, although she will also be asked how she feels about Camden Council’s pension investment in fossil fuels. The talks follow the Greens’ decision to stand aside in Ealing where Labour’s Rupa Huq is facing a similar threat of losing her seat in Parliament to the Conservatives.

On Monday, Ms Siddiq joined Labour supporters – including fellow Camden residents Polly Toynbee, the newspaper columnist, and lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy – calling on their own party not to field candidates in Brighton Pavilion, sole Green MP Caroline Lucas’s constituency, and the Isle of Wight where the Greens are best placed to defeat the Conservatives.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, co-signed by Jon Cruddas MP and musician Billy Bragg, Ms Siddiq said: “With the progressive vote split, the danger of a Tory landslide and all it means for our country now looms darkly on June 8. It is therefore important to maximise progressive votes and campaigning in some key seats.”

Labour members in Brighton ignored this appeal and picked candidate Michelle Thew to stand against Ms Lucas later that day, with warnings that London Labour figures should not be telling the party what to do on the south coast, particularly in a city with bubbling local rivalries with the Greens.

Ms Siddiq confirmed to the New Journal that she still felt standing in Brighton Pavilion was a mistake, adding that “it can’t be denied that Caroline Lucas has been a good MP, and I’ve worked with her on several issues including lowering the voting age to 16”.

The move is not an official coalition but the Greens had already called for loose pacts at this election – sometimes described as a stitching together a “progressive alliance” – to hinder Conservative candidates and prime minister Theresa May’s mission to win a landslide majority ahead of ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Tulip Siddiq campaigning this week in West Hampstead

In Hampstead and Kilburn, the Greens are not seen as realistic contenders having finished fourth in the seat at the 2015 general election, but they still took more than 2,000 votes. Nobody within the local Labour campaign believes that Green voters would all simply switch to Labour if there was no candidate from their party on the ballot paper, but the symbolic value of an endorsement from another party would be seen as a major boost to their campaign.

The Greens will definitely field a candidate in Holborn and St Pancras, held by Labour’s Keir Starmer with a majority of more than 17,000. This is a mountain for any party to climb, but the Greens are understood to be aware of the need to keep a visible presence here as it is territory which covers wards that they will target at next year’s council elections.

Sian Berry, the Highgate councillor and London Assembly member, has been selected as the candidate to stand against Mr Starmer. “We have resolved to talk to Tulip Siddiq to see if we can work with her,” she said of the battle in the north of the borough.

UKIP, meanwhile, have yet to select a candidate for the contest in Hampstead and Kilburn. The party have decided not to field one in Ilford North to avoid sucking votes away from the Conservative bid to unseat Labour MP Wes Streeting and it is unclear whether they might do the same here. Some local UKIP members still believe their votes stopped the Tories winning in Hampstead and Kilburn at the past two elections as their scores were on both occasions higher than the Labour majority.

The Liberal Democrats in Hampstead and Kilburn, like the party nationally, are campaigning on an anti-Brexit ticket. Members said they would not countenance stepping aside for Ms Siddiq simply on the basis of her vote against Brexit in the Commons, a rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn and her own party’s stance on Europe.

“I respect Tulip’s position on Brexit, I respect the things she’s done in the last few months in order to stand up to her party, but she still represents a party that isn’t prepared to be loud and proud about standing up for people who did not vote for Brexit,” said Lib Dem candidate Kirsty Allan.

 

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