No great surprise that the other parties made hay over Emily Frith’s decision to stand down as Liberal Democrat PPC for Hampstead & Kilburn.
It reflects badly on her, and is a headache and a half for the local party (not for the first time).
Conservative councillor Gio Spinella argued on Twitter that a Tory-style primary would have weeded out the half-hearted. Hard to see how – if anything, a primary approach is typically more about style and rhetoric than substance. Spinella admitted that the three Tory candidates had been through a vetting procedure beforehand at which such questions were asked.
|Cllr Gio Spinella|
When I pointed out the natural implication of his argument
@camdentories that implies the local LDs are so incompetent that they can’t spot a weak link? Do you think that?
— West Hampstead (@WHampstead) February 19, 2013
he stopped short of an outright yes, but
@camdentories I think their candidate quit after a month for another job. I think that answers your question…
— Giovanni Spinella (@GioSpinella) February 19, 2013
Keith Moffitt, local councillor, chair of the Camden Liberal Democrats, and chairman of the PPC selection committee, said that “commitment” was indeed one of the areas that all the shortlisted candidates were grilled on.
Apparently (and frankly, unsurprisingly), it wasn’t the case that she accepted the nomination knowing that there was another option in her back pocket. Instead, Emily was approached at a weekend for newly nominated PPCs and effectively recruited by a minister to become a Special Advisor working, I’m led to understand, across health and pensions.
It’s very reasonable to criticise a minister for recruiting a PPC, knowing how disruptive that would be locally. It’s also very reasonable to criticise Emily herself for committing to the constituency and then bailing out. Surely if this had been a safe Lib Dem seat (are there any of those left?) then her decision would have been different. On the other hand, she has a family and everyone – even a politician – has to think about providing for their children. Being a PPC doesn’t bring any financial reward and it’s a long process. Nevertheless, that’s something you know before you sign up and I would imagine her short-lived tenure as PPC will leave a bad taste in many local Lib Dems’ mouths. Don’t expect her to stand here again.
There will be a pause before the nomination process starts again. Expect to see some more familiar names in the fray – the party has quite a large pool of experienced campaigners from which to draw. Both existing and former councillors could well be in the hat. Could Russell Eagling follow in the footsteps of his partner Ed Fordham who placed third in 2010? Might James King, ardent Lib Dem campaigner and former Kilburn councillor, have a tilt? Janet Grauberg and David Abrahams – also former Kilburn councillors might be tempted. The faithful might be very wary of taking another candidate parachuted in from outside the area.
Meanwhile, as I suggested in yesterday’s post, it would be good to see the Conservatives taking advantage of their rivals discomfort not by ramming it down their throats but rather by hogging the pulpit for as long as they can to tell the voters of Hampstead & Kilburn why they should overturn that 42 vote deficit that kept Chris Philp out of Westminster in 2010.
Another story rumbles on in the background to all this. Nigel Rumble has been a member of all three main politicial parties. At the moment he’s a Labour card holder. He’s been dropping not very subtle hints on Twitter that he’d be an excellent candidate – no-one seems to be talking about him for the Labour nomination and if it’s an all-women shortlist then he’d be ruled out anyway. So, will Nigel be the first independent candidate to throw his hat in the ring?
Unlike the LibDem PPC looking for a quick “safe house”. I have a principle main home in H&K and am part of this wonderful vibrant community!
— Nigel Rumble (@nigelrumble) February 19, 2013
What H&K needs will be an “independent” candidate who engages with the local people of the constituency not for party CV profile building !
— Nigel Rumble (@nigelrumble) January 21, 2013