Pete Firmin

Target marginals: an inside story

Pete Firmin

OUR CANDIDATE, TULIP SIDDIQ, had a majority of only 1,138 when elected in 2015 - and our previous candidate, Glenda Jackson, won by only 42 votes in 2010. That majority increased to 15,560 this time, a swing of around 12%, but there was a problem in making our candidate accountable and the Party democratic.

Siddiq gained much goodwill in the CLP for nominating Jeremy Corbyn despite not voting for him herself, and for her votes in Parliament against renewal of Trident and against bombing Syria. She did not support the attempted coup against Corbyn by the PLP, and, indeed, denounced the sniping against him by others. She got less credit for her tacit support for the accusations of antisemitism against the left and for signing the appalling `Pledge for Israel’.

Her election campaign was pitched very much as ‘Vote Tulip’. Her election material barely mentioned the Party and Corbyn might as well not have existed. Despite the CLP having nominated Corbyn in the second leadership election, she made it clear he was not welcome in her campaign.

Instead, her material contained little serious policy - and nothing on housing - but stressed her independence and her votes against the Whip on HS2 and the triggering of Article 50.

I have no problem with her breaking the whip but that does not excuse her attempt to pose as having nothing to do with the Party.

Worse, in trying to persuade them not to stand in the constituency, she told a meeting of the Brent and Camden Green Party: “We will get rid of Jeremy Corbyn”! And in an interview in the London Evening Standard she said: “Jeremy Corbyn will not be Prime Minister”. For all this, she got the support of the Progressive Alliance, Open Britain, and the likes of Gina Miller, who was openly supporting Lib Dem candidates elsewhere.

This was all compounded in her victory speech at the count, in which she seemed keener on praising the Progressive Alliance than mentioning the Labour Party. She has gone on to call for a “truly independent” review of the Labour Party’s “problems with antisemitism” together with well known “Friends of Israel” Joan Ryan and Wes Streeting. Not only do they want to re-open the false allegations of antisemitism in the Party at large, Siddiq knows she is declaring war on a significant section of her local membership.

How much say did the Party have in her campaign? None. The campaign was run by ‘Tulip’s Team’, few of whom are party officers, but all of whom were handpicked by the candidate. After the election was called there was no meeting of the Party at all, not even the officers, nor even any consultation with the CLP secretary. Even the agent was appointed by the candidate with no reference to the Party. Attempts by some party branches to influence the nature of the campaign were rebuffed, and virtually all committee room organisers for polling day were decided by ‘Tulip’s Team’ with little input from branches.

The instincts of the left in the CLP were absolutely right - to campaign as strongly as possible for a good result in the constituency.

Siddiq will no doubt claim that the result is a vindication of her stance. But the evidence says otherwise - the massive numbers turning out to help were largely down to Momentum’s ‘your nearest marginal’ website, and the emphasis of London region on retaining our marginals. The increased numbers who turned out to vote were not primarily motivated by Siddiq’s stance on Brexit but a desire to get rid of the Tories and, in many cases, support for Corbyn. As in so many CLPs, there needs to be a serious reckoning of how the campaign was run and a push to ensure democratic safeguards are in place next time.

CWU and Hampstead & Kilburn CLP