CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Tories select Tim Barnes to take on Keir Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras

Anything can happen in elections these days, says Conservative challenger to Labour's 17,000 vote majority in the south of Camden

05 May, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Hampstead and Kilburn candidate Claire-Louise Leyland and Holborn and St Pancras candidate Tim Barnes file papers at the Town Hall today (Friday) registering their places on the general election ballot papers

THE man selected by the Conservatives to take on Keir Starmer in the Labour stronghold of Holborn and St Pancras insists he isn’t standing simply to make up the numbers.

Tim Barnes, a small business consultant who helps start-ups get off the ground, said shock results in recent times showed how dangerous it was to predict the outcomes at next month’s general election.

Mr Starmer was elected as a Labour MP for the first time in 2015 with a whopping 17,048 majority, but Mr Barnes said today (Friday): “Nobody expected the EU referendum result to go the way it did, nobody expected the local elections across the country last night to go the way they have. We’ve seen some extraordinary results. Labour losing control of Glasgow after 40 years. I’m not saying standing here is not going to be tough but you never know what will happen. Of course, we will have a lot of focus in [marginal] Hampstead and Kilburn but we will be active here too.”

Mr Barnes, who has lived in Bloomsbury for 25 years, was an enthusiastic campaigner for the UK to remain in the European Union last year, but said the decision to leave had now been made and it was time to be pragmatic about what to do next – and that did not mean having another referendum.

He said that on the debate on whether the UK should be heading for a “soft” or “hard” Brexit: “A lot of the things people say they want I just can’t really see being available, so we have to be a little more pragmatic. What we now need to do is make sure we get the best deal for everyone, and that includes the 48 percent who voted to Remain.”

Asked how he would feel standing for election in an area where his party in government was routinely blamed by the local Labour councillors running the Town Hall of being at the root cause of cuts to council services, he said they had failed to open “constructive” dialogue with ministers.

“If your first reaction is to just shout ‘stop the cuts, stop the cuts, this is unfair’, then there is no way the government can engage with that,” he said. “There is no room for a constructive discussion to get the best deal for local people in Camden. On the High Speed Rail 2 issue, for example, the council spent public money on increasingly desperate ways to try and stop something that was clearly, from a national perspective, going to happen. The government had committed large amounts of money to major infrastructure project and it was not a decision that rested with Camden Council, but they spent public money trying to resist something they did not have the authority to be able to stop.”

He added: “The price of this was not just the cash spent on fighting it, but it was also at the expense of a constructive conversation with the government and getting a better deal on how to mitigate the negative effects of HS2 and make the most of the positives. With a more positive relationship, a better deal could have been secured. ”

Mr Barnes said Mr Starmer – priced at 1/200 with some bookmakers to hold his seat – was “good at being a political figure” but it was so far unclear how this had benefited residents in the area.

“He [Mr Starmer] may be behind a rare outbreak of sense in the chaos of Jeremy Corbyn’s management of the party but what can he do if his own leader won’t listen to him,” said Mr Barnes. “I can’t see how his capabilities have really brought any balance to the madness of Corbyn, the most incompetent political leader we’ve had in recent memory in this country.”

The Greens are fielding Sian Berry, while the Lib Dem candidate is Stephen Crosher.

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