April 24, 2012
Well, I have voted by post in the 2012 GLA elections. It will not surprise you that I voted Liberal Democrat, given that I am, you know, a Liberal Democrat. Move along. Nothing to see here. Dog bites man, Sun rises in morning, Lib Dem votes Lib Dem - so what?
My votes for Brian Paddick and the Lib Dem London Assembly List candidates are unexceptional. More interesting is my vote in the election to choose the local London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden.
Labour candidate Andrew Dismore says, quite accurately, that former Lib Dem councillor Wayne Casey is supporting Mr Dismore in this election. Wayne was my agent when I stood for Parliament in Hendon at the 2010 General Election. He is one of my best friends - politicians always say that for effect, but Wayne really is a good friend of mine.
After sixteen years - sixteen years! - of service as a Barnet councillor for Mill Hill, Wayne stood down from the council in 2010 and decided that he was very much 'done' with any and all involvement in politics (especially local politics), so he allowed his party membership to lapse and has nothing more to do with any of it.
Wayne warned me that he would support Andrew Dismore in this London Assembly election. He shares with many people a strong distaste for the politics of Brian Coleman, the incumbent Conservative London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden. He sees Mr Dismore as being best placed to beat Mr Coleman and therefore would want Lib Dem supporters to cast a tactical vote for the Labour candidate in a bid to get the Tory out.
Having previously urged Labour voters to cast a tactical vote for Lib Dem candidates in some Barnet council elections, I have no complaint about Labour's urging their equivalent of that in this election. They can say what they like. That is showbusiness. I had a civilised working relationship with Andrew Dismore when he beat me in Hendon and I bear him no especial political animus - why would I? There are, however, three main reasons why I have ignored Wayne's blandishments and voted not for Mr Dismore, but for the Liberal Democrat candidate, Chris Richards.
One is that I have got to know Chris and he is a good, hard-working candidate and very much my kind of Liberal, so it really wouldn't kill me to simply vote for him, given that I am supposed to be a committed Liberal Democrat. Sometimes it really is that simple.
A second is that, while I understand all the reasons why Brian Coleman's political record is objectionable (and while I have been very happy to publicly criticise Mr Coleman's actions myself), he is not someone against whom I have a particular personal axe to grind. He and I are at least on nodding terms and he has always been more than courteous when we have run into each other. I see no reason to engage in a vendetta against the man. I shall shed no tears if he loses, but I decided to vote 'for' Chris Richards and not 'against' Brian Coleman.
The third reason relates to Ken Livingstone. Writing here in a personal capacity, I do not see Mr Dismore as having done enough to distance himself from those remarks of Mr Livingstone's that have offended so many Jewish Londoners, myself very much included.
My sense of this was exacerbated by my having had through my letterbox a leaflet bearing a photograph of Messrs Livingstone and Dismore at Golders Green Station, with a headline about what the duo would apparently do for Barnet if elected.
What would have been the reaction if, as Lib Dem candidate for Hendon in 2010, I had not been sharply critical of Baroness Tonge's remarks, but had instead posed with her at Hendon Central Station in an election leaflet? How would it have looked if I had done that at the same time as trumpeting my positive stance on a range of issues that matter to Jewish residents, in pursuit of such residents' votes?
Mr Dismore's long record of campaigning on issues of Jewish communal importance sits ill with his current embrace of Mr Livingstone. Mr Dismore wants Lib Dems to do him the favour of ignoring their true inclination and voting not for the Lib Dem candidate, but for him, on the basis that he might at least be preferable to his Conservative opponent. Sorry, Andrew, but the recent utterances of Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn mean that I for one do not owe you or the Labour Party any favours. No political party is perfect, but I am pleased to have voted for Chris Richards and against Ken Livingstone.