In 2010, this then newly-formed North London constituency was the electoral equivalent of a World Cup “group of death“. Labour incumbent Glenda Jackson held it by just 42 votes with her Conservative rival second and the Liberal Democrat candidate a very close third. The split was 33%, 33%, 31%. It was as marginal as three-way marginals get. But in 2015, it became a two-way as the Lib Dems slumped. Jackson’s successor, Tulip Siddiq, increased Labour’s majority, but only just to four figures. The Tories have her in their sights.
It would be wrong to sum up the seat by use of elderly stereotypes, but let’s do it anyway. Hampstead suggests bookish liberals with shapeless hairstyles and mustard-coloured ties who live in big, handsome houses, pace the Heath with big, daft dogs and disapprove of modernity and wealth. Kilburn suggests Irishness, the opening scene of Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album and a band led by the late Ian Dury. Yes, terribly, yet so enjoyably, wrong.
Look deeper and a fuller picture forms. Nearly a quarter of the seat’s housing is council or housing association-owned, those calling themselves white British form a 40% minority and 25% say they are black or Asian. Nearly 11% are Muslim and 6.5% are Jewish. The posh parts of the seat are increasingly marked by newer, harder and glossier sorts of wealth and the poorer parts are gentrifying.
In light of the latter and the state of the London polls, which give Labour only a small lead over the Tories in the capital as a whole, Siddiq looks to have an even harder fight on her hands than two years back. She’s a firm Remainer and ally of Gina Miller, which should help her in a very strongly Remain seat. But the Conservatives have chosen a Remainer too – Claire-Louise Leyland, who leads Labour-run Camden Council’s opposition Tory group, when they could have had Leaver Kemi Badenoch, a London Assembly member (she’s since found a home in Saffron Walden).
Leyland is an art-therapist and lecturer. Camden New Journal’s Richard Osley reports that she would oppose the re-legalising of fox-hunting with dogs, which Theresa May has indicated she would allow MPs a free vote on. Bloody liberals. Siddiq, a former councillor whose cv is rich in Labour Party experience, is the Mitcham-born grand daughter of the first prime minister of Bangladesh. Her mother’s older sister is the current holder of that post.
The outcome in this seat will partly depend on how well the Lib Dem vote recovers and which of the two frontrunners it most damages. Their candidate, Kirsty Allan, has told the Ham & High that her party is the only one truly “standing up for the 48%.” Allan is a political risk adviser. Neither Leyland nor Siddiq will will need telling that she adds to the seat’s electoral perils.