Barnet 2018: Labour gains could be undermined by taint of antisemitism

Barnet 2018: Labour gains could be undermined by taint of antisemitism

High Barnet ward is at the high end of Barnet borough: villagey, churchy and sharing a border with Hertfordshire. It returned three Conservative councillors in 2014, and you would think it had a soul of solid blue. But here’s what Lewis Baston writes about the ward in the On London Borough Elections Guide 2018:

It is the whitest ward in Barnet and its proportions of all minorities are below the borough average, but in housing, income and education it is not far out of line. The Conservatives won in 2014 on a fairly low share of the vote, with Labour in second place and the Lib Dems and Greens having reasonable support as well. Given the broad trend in the Chipping Barnet constituency, it may be vulnerable to Labour in 2018.

On the knocker in Thornton Road, Barnet EN5 Labour canvassers have been scenting that weakness for some time. The numbers back them up: Tory supremacy in the ward has been slipping in elections of different kinds – general, local and Mayoral and London Assembly – and last year’s near-unseating of Theresa Villiers pointed starkly to a wider slippage in Tory loyalties in this very Outer London territory. There is also a Labour belief that both Liberal Democrat and Green Party support in High Barnet ward itself is faltering: “They used to squeeze us out,” one Labour canvasser said. “Now, we’re squeezing them.”

Barnet as a whole has been moving Labour’s way in local authority terms. Demographics hold the key. One of the Tories’s London flagships – nicknamed the “Easy Council”, thanks to its “no frills” out-sourcing model – it has seen its poverty rate rise, its diversity increase and, some Labour people note, an influx of young professional renters and first-time buyers from next door Camden and Haringey, bringing their progressive voting habits with them.

Labour fell just one seat short of capturing Barnet in 2014. It is their top target this time. But clouds interrupted the evening sunshine in High Barnet. There could be some on Labour’s horizons, and the source of them will come as no surprise.

The stench of antisemitism around Labour nationally has hurt the party in this part in this part of London before and there’s no disguising fears that it will do so again. Jewish Labour candidates include senior liberal rabbi Danny Rich, but Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the issue  taints Labour at the highest level and as a whole in critics’ eyes.

Fifteen per cent of Barnet’s population is Jewish by faith (and a significant further number by identity) and they are as capable as any other group of Londoners of disagreeing about all kinds of things. But they are especially numerous in particular wards and high levels of political engagement could mean disengagement from Labour sympathies next Thursday in ways that could alter key results.

Hale and maybe West Hendon and West Finchley would be top of that list. Childs Hill, where the Lib Dems hold a seat and are fighting hard to win more, would become very difficult for them.

There are nine wards altogether in Barnet that can be called marginal. The table below, from the On London Guide, shows how vote shares have been distributed in them in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Conclusion? In theory, Labour ought to win Barnet. In practice, it looks far from a done deal.

For in-depth detail on the borough elections, including ward-by-ward analysis and stats, buy a copy of the On London Borough Elections Guide, compiled by Lewis Baston and Dave Hill, for just £5. Individual borough profiles can be purchased for £1 each. Use the menu and the “buy now” button below.


Borough Elections Guide 2018
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Dave and Lewis are available for hire as a double act, both before and after the elections. Email: davehillonlondon@gmail.com.

Categories: Analysis, Reportage

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