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Karen Buck’s election battle for Westminster North given a boost by surge in Labour support

As campaign enters final week, bookies predict tight contest between Labour's Karen Buck and Tory candidate Lindsey Hall

02 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Karen Buck said policing was a major issue for people she has spoken to on the doorstep

KAREN Buck is facing a fight for political survival with just days to go before voters decide the fate of one of the country’s most marginal seats.

The Labour candidate for Westminster North, who has held the seat since 1997 – with a majority of 1,977 in the 2015 election – is in confident mood after being boosted by a surge of support since her party’s manifesto was published. But with the campaign entering its final week the bookies are predicting a tight contest between Ms Buck and the Tory challenger.

Westminster Extra trailed Ms Buck out on the doorstep canvassing in Church Street on Tuesday where she said her strong concerns about police and education funding cuts had struck a chord with constituents.

She said: “Westminster started off facing a £17million cut in school budgets and parents are really worried about that. Policing has also come through really strongly recently. We have lost a third of our police in Westminster. People want there to be a police presence, they really are noticing that that is reduced and they don’t like it.”

She added: “The manifesto, generally speaking, was clear and with good, solid policies that people have generally found quite attractive. The tuition fees issue has cut through enormously, that has been very popular and people like the housing commitments as well as the whole range of the education policies. The Tories have had a shocker of a campaign, just a shocker. Particularly the unravelling of their manifesto, their social care policy and the dementia cap, which has also really cut through.”

Ms Buck praised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign and said he has “completely outwitted” Conservative leader Theresa May by appearing in the live TV debate this week, adding: “The Tories called the election thinking that it would be a walkover for them and it just hasn’t been.”

During the walkabout on Tuesday, Church Street resident Joanna Merza said: “Karen helps the community a lot, I vote Labour because she really understands what we’re going through. Not all of us are rich, not all of us are wealthy, so sometimes we need help. I really love Karen Buck, she has been supporting the community for a very long time.”

Didarewil Islam, who also lives in Church Street, said: “I have been voting for her for 15 years. She helps everybody.”

London Assembly Member Tom Copley, who joined Karen on the doorstep on Tuesday, said: “Here in Westminster North, which let’s remember is a seat which the Tories thought they might win for the past few elections, has been so amazing because it seems like there is nobody that Karen hasn’t helped at some point.”

Brexit remained a hot topic in the constituency, where two-thirds of people voted to stay in the EU.

“We have tens of thousands of EU residents living in Westminster. We are a population that are sharing homes with, married to, running businesses with, working next to EU residents. It is an intensely personal connection that a lot of people have,” said Ms Buck, who voted against the triggering of Article 50 and vowed to fight against a hard Brexit.

“We have certainly had a number of people who have previously been Green or Lib Dem voters who feel very strongly about Europe who now feel what is essential is to try and stop a hard Brexit. They don’t want to see a Tory landslide as they think that will lead to that result.”

Tory candidate Lindsey Hall, an art collector in Mayfair, also felt Europe was a huge concern on the doorstep. She said: “Labour’s Land Tax and dramatic hikes in Inheritance Tax has sent shock waves among many homeowners in Westminster North, where property prices are so much higher than elsewhere in the country.

“These two pernicious tax grabs got a bit lost with all the noise around the social care debate but are every bit as bad as Ed Miliband’s Mansion Tax, so I predict this will frame much of the debate for the final week.”

While Ms Hall said she was feeling confident that the borough could “turn blue” despite “fluctuating campaigns, Ms Buck added: “We have got a rock-solid Tory council and I say to people the alternative would be to have a Conservative MP, which would mean a Conservative government and a Conservative council.

“This would mean nobody would be there to fight against critical issues such as education cuts.”

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