Brexit could be crucial in key marginal

In 2015, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq triumphed over the Conservative candidate by a slender 1,138 votes.


With turnout among the Jewish electorate proven to be as high as 80 per cent during general elections, the 5,000-plus Jewish votes up for grabs in Hampstead and Kilburn are likely to be crucial in determining the final result.

In 2015, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq triumphed over the Conservative candidate by a slender 1,138 votes.

The margin for Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson in 2010 was even more threadbare – with just 42 votes winning the seat for Labour.

Conservative Party campaign leaflets posted through doors in the constituency emphasise Ms Siddiq’s support for Jeremy Corbyn during the party leadership contest two years ago.

Opponents believe the Labour candidate’s link to Mr Corbyn could be a big negative for her, especially among those crucial Jewish voters.

But speaking to the JC this week, Ms Siddiq claimed: “The Tories are trying to make a big thing out of the fact that I voted for Jeremy in the first leadership ballot. They conveniently forget that I resigned from his front bench, and that I supported Owen Smith the second time around.

"The truth is Jeremy himself told me, and others, that he didn't want to be leader when he stood, and that he was only doing so to broaden the debate.”

Ms Siddiq is also well-connected with the Jewish community – she is a regular at the JW3 community centre, her child attends a Jewish nursery school and she is vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and she openly called for Ken Livingstone to be kicked out of the party.

"As a Muslim myself, it is crucial that you have non-Jewish people joining the fight against antisemitism,” says Ms Siddiq.

"It must never just be Jewish people who are fighting against this discrimination. It has also got to be people who were not victims themselves. That is what I have tried to do.”

Conservative candidate Claire-Louise Leyland, a Camden councillor and art therapist, was selected over Henry Newman, a former adviser to Michael Gove, to fight the seat perhaps crucially because she was a Remainer in last year’s EU referendum. Mr Newman voted in favour of Brexit.

Ms Leyland, who is pictured next to a large image of Theresa May on her campaign leaflet, is only too aware of the need to convince potential Conservative voters - in a constituency where only 23 per cent backed Leave - that the Prime Minister’s devotion to an apparent hard-Brexit should not put them off continued support of her party.

Ms Leyland explains: “I worked on the Stronger In campaign last year. Like many living in the constituency, I was disappointed by the result of the referendum. But this was a democratic process and it should be respected. Despite how we each may feel about what happened, we need to work together to get the best deal that we can for our country.”

On Israel and antisemitism she says: “Theresa May has been a staunch supporter of the state of Israel and its right to defend itself from terror. If elected, I’d be proud to play my part in ensuing that the government continues to understand and respect the community.”

Both Labour and Conservative candidates fear leakage of votes to the Lib Dems. Tim Farron’s party collapsed to a poor third place in 2015 – but in that close 2010 contest the party was within 1,000 votes of winning the seat.

Kirsty Allan, who advises corporations on public policy and risk at Peter Mandelson’s Global Counsel and has worked for former Lib Dem ministers Norman Lamb and Lynne Featherstone in the past, is standing on a firm pro-EU ticket.

“The Conservatives, moving further to the extreme right by adopting Ukip policies, are trying to force through a disastrous hard-Brexit with little regard for the long-term consequences,” she says.

“At the same time, the divided Labour party won’t oppose a hard-Brexit. In Hampstead and Kilburn, 76 per cent voted to remain in the referendum. They deserve an MP who, with the full support of their party, will stand up for those views in Westminster.”

Ms Allan believes there is a link between anti-EU sentiment and xenophobia and racism. “The rise in antisemitism is deeply disturbing, and we've seen how the nationalist undertones of the Brexit vote have normalised behaviour that is hurtful and offensive to many people.

“The Liberal Democrats believe in tolerance and diversity, and antisemitism has no place in our party, our politics, or our society.”

There was talk of Green Party candidate John Mansook standing down as part of a “progressive alliance” with Labour, allowing Ms Siddiq to count on the bulk of the 2,387 votes that went to the Greens last time. But the deal failed to materialise as a result of Labour’s refusal to form similar alliances in Green strongholds in Brighton and the Isle of Wight.

Mr Mansook said: “Any electoral alliance needs to be a true alliance, not a one-way street. Sadly there hasn’t been any movement towards this from the Labour Party nationally.

“One of the Green Party’s key platforms in the upcoming campaign will be to change our unfair voting system, so that discussions like this are unnecessary and people can vote for what they believe in."

See all our Election 2017 coverage here

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