Electrician hopes to spark Labour upset


Electrician Richard Butler has probably never been compared to Sisyphus, but Labour's candidate in Hertsmere could be forgiven for feeling that he has been handed an impossible task.

Like the ancient Greek king who repeatedly pushed a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back again, Mr Butler faces what looks like inevitable failure.

The Hertsmere constituency includes some of the country's fastest-growing Jewish areas, such as Borehamwood and Bushey, as well as long-established communities in Elstree and Radlett.

But it has been a Tory seat since it was drawn up in 1983, and under retiring MP James Clappison has been one of the safest - he has had a majority of more than 17,600 for the past five years.

"This is a stepping-stone for me for 2020," Mr Butler admitted. "But Ukip have proved in by-elections that it's possible to beat the Tories. Maybe I can make history here."


Location: Hertfordshire
Sitting MP: James Clappison (Con)
Majority: 17,605
Size of electorate: 70,772
Percentage of Jewish voters: 14.3
Standing in May: Oliver Dowden (Con), Richard Butler (Lab), Frank Ward (Ukip)

The 29-year-old has strong roots in Borehamwood - his father, Ernie, is a veteran borough councillor and Richard himself is currently deputy mayor of the town council.

Mr Butler said he understood the struggles faced by families in the area.

"I started at a young age and joined Labour when I was just 15. I was a school governor at the age of 20. That's taught me a lot about the issues schools are facing," he explained.

"One of the biggest things I'm finding is that people are being priced out of the area they grew up in. We are losing part of the population - people have to move away. They can't afford to bring up their families here."

Mr Butler's Jewish girlfriend, a Labour councillor in Barnet, has helped introduce him to aspects of life in the community, he said.

"Jewish people here want to feel comfortable - to send their children to school, and to be safe there and at the kosher shops in our towns.

"We have to make sure that's the case. The Jewish community is so proactive in supporting other groups and integrating in the community."

Conservative candidate Oliver Dowden is runaway favourite to become the constituency's MP on May 7, but Mr Butler said "meltdown" among Tories on the local councils could open the way for him.

He said: "I think the Conservatives have got complacent here. The constituency is ripe for taking from them. Labour are sending a good message to people that we are moving forward."

● A former Borehamwood Labour councillor will stand as the Ukip candidate in Hertsmere.

Frank Ward defected to Nigel Farage's party in 2013 after more than 40 years as a Labour member.

The father of former Labour MP for Watford Claire Ward, he has previously said he shares Ukip's views on immigration and opposition to gay marriage.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive