Hendon: Election 2010

By Marcus Dysch, April 8, 2010

In recent weeks voters in Hendon have been preoccupied more with matzah prices than turnout forecasts and swing percentages.

But they are now likely to find themselves at the forefront of fevered election activity.

Labour's Andrew Dismore, who has held the seat since 1997, faces a critical challenge from Tory Matthew Offord and the Liberal Democrats' Matthew Harris, who is Jewish.

Although the constituency is ranked 73rd on the Tories' list of targets, analysts put it in the top four of the essential 80 seats the party must win to topple Gordon Brown.

David Cameron's troops must gain 116 seats for an overall Commons majority. Hendon, requiring just a four per cent swing away from Labour, is very much up for grabs.

Few MPs have worked as tirelessly on Israel causes as Andrew Dismore

Senior politicians have already visited; Foreign Secretary David Miliband popped in to a school last month, days after former Tory leader William Hague spoke to local members of Conservative Friends of Israel.

While Hendon voters are concerned over local matters such as hospitals and transport, candidates are likely to face tougher questioning on Jewish doorsteps over their handling of wider issues concerning Israel.

Few MPs have worked as tirelessly on these causes as Mr Dismore. He has frequently urged Parliament to take action on looted art restitution, led calls for a national Holocaust Memorial Day and regularly defended Israel.

He may just escape the potential fall-out from Labour's handling of the universal jurisdiction fiasco thanks to his (unsuccessful) Private Member's Bill.

Mr Offord, former deputy leader of Barnet Council, is also a long-standing friend of Israel.

In recent weeks I have spotted him regularly pounding the streets, chatting to residents. Five years ago, he was the Tories' election agent in Hendon, overseeing Mr Dismore's majority being slashed by 5,000. That work could now prove crucial in aiding his own attempt to secure a seat. Mr Harris, vice-chairman of Lib Dem Friends of Israel, faces an uphill struggle. Despite his history as a dedicated local campaigner, he will suffer as a result of the party's recent catastrophic track record on Israel.

He has valiantly attempted to defend his party, despite Baroness Tonge's outbursts, calls to suspend arms sales to Israel, and the leadership of Nick Clegg, a man who failed to realise that Israel is a Jewish state.

For the next month, political eyes will be firmly fixed on this distinctly Jewish corner of north-west London. If Mr Offord is successful, Mr Cameron is likely to find himself at Number 10.

    Last updated: 6:54pm, April 15 2010